Taliaferro, our final 2019 Role Model. Linda is the Vice President of Global
Quality for Meritor, Inc. Prior to joining Meritor, Linda held positions at
Littelfuse, Inc., Johnson Controls, Inc., and Hayes Lemmerz, Inc. (now Maxion
Wheels). She also founded The TEE – The Extra Effort, a career advisory service
that assists women in changing the trajectory of their careers within corporate
America. She is being recognized for her outstanding professional
accomplishments and demonstrated leadership throughout her career at
this year’s Role Model Dinner.
Here are some
clips from her recent conversation with AFG.
Alternatives For Girls (AFG): For many of the
women we serve, AFG provides a support system to help them make positive choices.
Was there anyone in your life or career who has helped guide you in making
Linda Taliaferro: I had many conscientious,
kind people that came across my way that advocated for me or whispered in my
ear and gave me advice. Scott Harrison, was a phenomenal boss that I had when I
was moving into the executive level. I know I wouldn’t have achieved what I
have if it wasn’t for him. I’ve had many other people that stepped up and helped
when they didn’t have to. I’ve had the luxury of some great friends. You have
to be selective of who you call your friends. Friends are not those people who
tell you want you want to hear, but who tell you what you need to hear to make
you do better.
AFG: Clearly, you
have felt inspired to give back to the community. Is there any part of your
personal story that has led to this?
I grew up in a small town, my parents were hard working blue collar people.
They divorced when I was 8 years old, so there were some challenging times
before my mom remarried. She waited until I graduated and was going to college
before remarrying. It was during those ten years, when it was just me and my
mom, the critical people in my life, my uncle, a teacher, someone in my church
community, kept me focused on my educational goals and becoming a VP one day.
It’s those experiences that made me who I am today. My mom did the best she
could, although we were low income, to introduce me to activities, like girl
scouts. The teacher I mentioned, and the woman in my church, my uncle, they saw
something in me and made me who I am today. My uncle told me I was good at math
and science, and to keep going. Those three key people in my life that positively
reinforced things to me, they inspired me to help young people.
It doesn’t matter where you come from, you can do whatever
you want. I persevered through being different, and I made it where I am today.
And for girls who might not be the prettiest or most popular, that doesn’t
matter. What matters is being focused and working hard. It has a long term
effect. Because I had the people in my life who took the time to care, I wanted
to give back to the young people in life.
AFG: Who are your role models?
Taliaferro: My uncle Chester was my number one role model. He was my role model
because of how he led his life; family was important to him. It’s hard to
narrow down. There are people out there, famous ones, some that aren’t so
famous, that really spent time reaching back and making a difference for where
they are today or where they life today. LeBron James, he is an excellent role
model for young people today. He became an overnight success at 18, but here
has never been anything negative about him. But he also gives back, won a
championship for Cleveland and then he opened a school. He’s now thinking about
“What legacy can I leave for my kids?” He is an athlete that young people can
look to for how to live your life. He could have gone off the tracks, but he
didn’t. He is someone they can emulate, not to become a famous basketball
player, but to learn how to work hard, how to sharpen my skills, be a good
citizen, and position myself to give back. For me personally, my uncle is the
only role model that I had. But, he did what LeBron did, and he also played
professional football! There are a lot of things that could have happened that
didn’t, a lot of bad decision he could have made that he didn’t. I can’t tell
you the number of times he helped someone who needed it.
AFG: Which of your accomplishments are you the
Taliaferro: The people I’ve come across in my life that I’ve helped in their career. There are people that email me and tell me “I got this award”, and “I’ve been promoted and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you.” Their successes are my greatest accomplishment. Which is why I started my own company, to do help do more of that.
AFG: What advice would you give to the young women that AFG serves?
Taliaferro: I would tell [the girls and young
women in Alternatives For Girls programs] to latch on to every second that you
have within this organization because AFG is valuable. Part of the reason I’m so
excited to be honored is because I get to mentor some of these young women. The
girls and young women may have some people in their lives that are really
speaking in their ear, and they might be sick of hearing that grades are
important or to have good friends, but they will be glad if they listen to
those things. It’s invaluable to even have one person who can help you listen
to those things.
AFG: Why do you believe that it is important to
empower girls and young women?
Taliaferro: [Empowering girls and young women
is important] because, I truly believe, they are really why families are
successful, they are the leaders within families. So they also impact the
country. That is what is so important for positive growth and development, it’s
women. It’s unfortunate that there isn’t enough focus or attention on young
girls, especially if they aren’t in the right neighborhood or zip codes. And a
lot of people think boys are leaders and girls are not, and that view has been
around for a long time. It’s important for girls to have balance, to be powerful
and feminine and do whatever it is you want to do in life. That’s what is
My mom did her best and taught me to do the bare minimum.
But when I tried to do more and aspired to do more, she never stopped me. It’s
amazing what women can do, when she grew up that wasn’t the case. That’s why we
need to do what we can to move the needle for girls. Especially young women of
color. We can make these changes, but we have to be a part of the change.
That’s why I think it’s important to advocate for that change, and why Alternatives
For Girls is so important, and why I’m on the board of the Girl Scouts, which
is another organization moving the needle, and involved in STEM activities for
girls; because we will face the future of our county. And we see it happening
already with young women making change.
The 2019 Role Model Dinner will be held on Wednesday,
March 27th at MGM Grand Detroit. Click
here to learn more or to purchase a ticket.