Running a Business in a Man’s World

Cathy Beardsley

Recently I was honored by XBIZ as 2016 Businesswoman of the Year. It was a fun evening and a very gratifying moment for me. Getting to this point in my career took dedication and persistence and wouldn’t have been possible without lots of support from both my SegPay team and my family.

Women CEOs are definitely not the norm. In fact, according to a Catalyst report on Women CEOs at S&P 500 companies, women currently hold only 20 CEO positions. That’s barely four percent. Running a business is no easy feat regardless of the industry or your gender. During my career I’ve faced unique obstacles and challenges while having to overcome judgment in a different way than men. In an ideal world, everyone would get a fair shot regardless of gender.

There are some advantages to being a professional business woman in this industry. When I attend banking and card association events, I’m one of the few women CEOs. It’s easier to get noticed, to make contacts and to build working relationships.

As a young professional at MCI, I got my first taste of an ultra-competitive work environment. It was the 1990s, and women were starting to make progress in the corporate world. We were not only competing with each other to advance, we were competing with the well-established “old boys’ club.” I never let that stop me. In fact, I worked even harder to prove myself. This became my philosophy throughout my career: work hard and people will take notice.

Towards the end of the 1990s one of my corporate accounts at MCI was iBill. I was aware that with the explosion of the internet, iBill and the adult industry were doing very well and growing. The owner of iBill recruited me to change the face of the company and help develop a more “corporate” culture.

Our success led to the company getting acquired. Along the way, we learned some tough life lessons, but that’s another story. Leaving MCI and moving to the adult market was a stretch for me at that time, but I wanted a change and was ready to push my skills.

I’ll never forget my first adult show. I was a little nervous and was not sure what to expect. How would I be received? Would I stick out like a sore thumb among the models and tech guys? But it went better than I could have ever expected, even though I felt a little “square.” The adult industry is actually more open-minded and open to individualism than many outsiders would expect, be it gender, sexual identity or whatever.

I quickly realized that business owners in the adult space, just like in the mainstream world, are very serious about the success of their businesses. As long as I was adding value, I would be taken seriously regardless of my gender. My clients and colleagues have always treated me with respect and acted very professionally. It’s why I embraced the market we serve and don’t shy away from discussing it with friends and neighbors.

There are some advantages to being a professional business woman in this industry. When I attend banking and card association events, I’m one of the few women CEOs. It’s easier to get noticed, to make contacts and to build working relationships. As I’ve grown with the industry and become more seasoned, my clients seem to get younger and younger. Recently, I was told that I resemble a mother-type figure. I take this as a compliment, because I think they are saying that I’m trustworthy. At least that’s how I like to think of it!

I am proud of my accomplishments and have learned from some of the best in business. I focus on working hard for people who are striving to be successful at their passion. The leaders in this industry share the same values as I have and want to maintain for my company. As I look ahead to the future, it is my goal to continue to provide the best leadership to our team and help SegPay be the best partner for our clients and the industry as a whole.

It took only three years for Cathy Beardsley to turn startup SegPay into a profitable company. As president and CEO, Beardsley oversees the day-to-day operations and long-term strategic planning for the company. SegPay is one of four companies approved by Visa USA to operate as a high-risk Internet payment service provider in the U.S. Since 2005, SegPay has offered online merchants a state-of-the-art billing platform that provides realtime payment processing around the globe.


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