My Grandmother’s Career – Reflections on Women’s History Month

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we recognize those who have made a significant impact on the career options for future generations of women. My maternal grandmother was one of those trailblazers. From an early age, it was not unusual for me to see my grandmother do everything that women did when I was young: managing the home, raising a family, and engaging socially. In addition to this full time job in the home, she also worked outside the home, full time.

When I think about the importance of role models, I think about my grandmother and the fact that she was working well before it was common to see women in the workplace. Because of my grandmother, I expected from an early age to work alongside hard-working, innovative women as I began my own career. She was such an inspiration, and she taught me lessons that I still follow today.

At Age Eight, I Saw How Hard My Grandmother Worked

My first exposure to my grandmother’s career outside the home was at eight years old when she took me to work (she was an administrative assistant at a high school in Augusta, Ga.). I had never thought seriously about my grandmother working outside the home until that day. I intently watched everything she did, from answering phones to interacting with students, teachers and parents, and even taking dictation in short hand from the principal for a school communication. I especially enjoyed watching her address discipline issues with unruly high school students! What really struck me was how diligent, efficient, focused and organized she was in everything she did. She was very respectful of the people with whom she worked, and she was equally well respected by them. I could easily see her job was something she took very seriously. “Never take your job for granted, and never do anything that could harm your reputation or your career,” she would often lecture to her children and grandchildren over the years, many of us not fully understanding the reason she spoke these words.

A Strong Work Ethic

I learned even more about my grandmother’s strong work ethic when I understood why she worked. Many years later, not long after I started my own career, my grandmother shared with me how she got her first job. “You know I begged for my first job. I literally begged for it,” she told me. It was the outset of The Depression, and there were no jobs to be found. She heard about a single job opening at the City Hall and she knew it would be competitive. She shared with me that when it came time to close her interview, she looked across the desk, staring at the interviewer, and literally begged for the job. I imagined a woman with a desperate look, avoiding tears, but letting it be known she would give all that she could to be the best candidate for that job. She was eventually hired, and from that moment on, she viewed her job as a blessing that she never took for granted. This perspective shaped why she was resourceful and why she always went the extra mile, each and every day. It is why she lectured us about appreciating our jobs and protecting our reputations.

A Sense of Purpose

My grandmother worked very hard for many more years, and it was always out of a sense of purpose, and it was for others and not herself. She did not work because it made her feel better or because she wanted to feel accomplished; she worked to help put food on the table, and eventually, to put my mother and my aunt through college, especially since she and my grandfather were never able to go to college. My grandmother made sure that neither of her daughters had to beg for a job. Today, I have my own sense of purpose for my career, beyond just my own personal desires, and I attribute that in part to what I learned from my grandmother.

2016 and Beyond

In 2016, women who graduate with accounting degrees can choose their own path. If they study and work hard, the career opportunities are endless such that they will not have to beg for their jobs. The memory of my grandmother has helped me understand and appreciate the journey women have taken, in terms of their presence and accomplishments in the workplace, and what they can accomplish with a sense of purpose and direction. At DHG, our Women Forward program helps us understand the potential of all of our team members, be mindful of work styles and drive cultural change as it relates to women as leaders within our firm. I believe we have made great strides at DHG and within the profession. Yet I also believe we must continue to push forward. It is my promise to you that we will do all we can to fulfill our mission to build valuable careers with all of our people and to develop inspiring role models for both men and women, like what my grandmother has been to me.

DHG’s Celebration of Women’s History Month

I hope you will take a moment to check out our people blog and podcasts where our DHG women share their stories in celebration of Women’s History Month. Also, I’d like to recognize Ashley Ensley, a DHG Senior Manager, who recently authored an inspiring and informative white paper, Successful Women Leaders: Conversations about Career and Life.