- Aleta Jeffress
International Women’s Day 2021 #IWD2021 #choosetochallenge
From challenge comes change.
2020 was a year of many challenges, and many changes. Change is imminent; but to challenge the norm and drive change takes intentional effort.
I recently spent a week working from my parent’s home. They are in their 80’s, so a little help was in order. As I reflected on writing this blog, and the upcoming International Women’s Day, I took the opportunity to consider what my mother has accomplished.
A few years ago I was at their house and uncovered the letter you see below. It’s a recommendation letter from one of her previous bosses. Written in the early 1960’s, part of it made me laugh out loud! “Girl Friday”? Can you imagine writing a recommendation letter today and referring to anyone as a Girl Friday? When I looked up the definition, dictionary.com said, “An efficient and faithful female assistant, as in "I'll have my girl Friday get the papers together.” However, what I also learned was that “Friday, originally was applied to a male servant, and then a woman secretary or clerk who works for a man.”
Change. Not only did the term pivot from a male to a female, but today would be a very condescending term.
In the 1960’s however, my mother carried that title with pride. The first one in her family to study business, beyond high school, she became an indispensable office management resource. She took on job responsibilities that “would be assigned to a male junior executive”. She flew across the country to train other women in her role and for her company. She became skilled at accounting, and in effect worked as a controller and tax accountant. She worked part time so she could see my brother and me off to school and be home when we were.
In my generation I am confident my mom would have become a CPA, and likely a (female) CFO. 2020 may have still have had her working from home to accommodate schedules; but she would be leading an organization. She would have had the opportunity to be modeling excellence, mentoring others, driving change. In a few of our recent conversations about work and careers, she doesn’t understand why women shy away from opportunities that are in front of them.
As women continue to drive equity and inclusion, we have challenged. And we have changed. There are days where change isn’t apparent; a challenging scenario or stats that have plateaued, but progress has been made. We are able to be in positions to write and receive the appropriate glowing recommendation letters that collectively propel us forward. Leverage this to position others and share resources.
Today, at 84, my mom is my dad’s caretaker. She makes hard decisions. She walks three miles a day (outside when possible). She learned how to use the iPhone 11, I insisted she have. Her dedication and diligence inspires me to continue to challenge, drive change, and create more opportunities for my daughter’s generation to flourish.