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Meet Linda 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 important decisions?
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?
Taliaferro: 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 proudest of?
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 extremely important.
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.