To celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day (March 8), the TorchLight team is proud to highlight the many important women who have inspired us. From grandmothers to public figures, cousins, friends and many others, we celebrate these strong, wonderful women and what they mean to us.
Heidi Parsont, CEO and Founder
My mentor was my maternal grandmother, Deane Lee. Despite living in the NY metro area for years, she was from Richmond, VA and had quite the southern accent to prove it. My grandfather had been a business owner. He died in 1983, and while my grandmother was fine financially, she had never been on her own and didn’t know where to begin. She didn’t even have a credit card in her name (which is hard to imagine nowadays). A few years later, I remember her calling me with excitement to say that she had gotten her first credit card. Imagine her surprise when I shared that I, too, had just gotten my first credit card as a college freshman—how times had changed! As a well-traveled woman, she instilled in me a sense of adventure and curiosity that has carried over my lifetime including my current situation where we are domiciled in the Paris suburbs.
At the age of 65, she became a travel agent because she had been just about everywhere. This also allowed her to travel more. She was a very strong woman and always wanted to get her way, and with her southern drawl, it was hard to refuse her. She always sounded sweet even if she was a little bossy, a trait that I inherited (but I’m from NY so maybe the sweetness got lost!). Finally, I think it was her love of family that I most admired. No matter what she did, or where she was, her family was always the most important part of her life. Sadly, she only outlived my grandfather by 9 years. I was an adult when she died and thankfully I was able to fully appreciate her gifts and emulate her strength. She left a legacy of travel and adventure for her children and grandchildren that will last a lifetime.
Samantha Nguyen, Marketing and Client Services Project Manager
My grandmother, Ruth Kauffman, was a truly inspirational woman. She was an amazing mother to 12 children and the greatest grandmother to over 30 grandchildren and great grandchildren. My grandmother was the strongest woman I have ever met and was the matriarch of our huge, wonderful family. She made the best mac and cheese and has so much love for my Grandpa. My grandma showed me what it meant to be a true woman of strength, how to be a leader, and how to carry yourself with grace and love while still speaking up for what you believe in. I am proud to be made of the same cloth as this inspirational woman!
Heather Pederson, Senior Director of Recruiting Operation and Engagement
The inspirational woman I want to celebrate is Michelle Obama. I’ve always held Michelle in high-regard, but after devouring her book Becoming last year, she became more instrumental in my worldview. Especially in my definition of success and what it means to really live your truth. She said, “So many of us go through life with our stories hidden, feeling ashamed or afraid when our whole truth doesn’t live up to some established ideal.” I want to lift her up today in celebration, as she’s lifted me.
Autumn Conrad Schiff, Recruiting Manager
My grandmother was widowed at age 28 with four young kids in 1960 at a time when most women didn’t have the independence we take for granted today. To support family, she went to school and got a job as a secretary. She eventually started her own business and became financially independent, but still taught all of her grandchildren to sew, garden, cook and work hard. She was a great role model.
Jen Todd, Senior Manager, Client Services
I am blessed to have many inspirational women in life, one of whom is my cousin Judge Mary Ann Cohen. I try to emulate her strength, generosity, and deep love of family in all that I do. I love and respect her professionalism and wisdom, her compassion and ability to understand and empathize with all people, and her love and importance of family.
Julie Rutherford, Marketing Director
My husband and I met Laurence Perdue when we moved to France in 2001. Her apartment was across from ours and she immediately adopted us and instructed us to call her Mamie Laurence (French for grandmother). Mamie Laurence was an incredibly strong woman, born in Normandy and raised in Paris by a single mother who was high up in the French Government Aviation Department (astonishing given it was the mid-20th century).
Mamie was a part of the French Resistance in the Alps during WWII, worked as a medical office manager, and was also extremely interested in aviation. We spoke every New Year’s Eve on her birthday since we moved back 17 years ago. Mamie was one of the most politically aware people I’ve ever met, even up until she passed away a few weeks ago at age 98. I’ll always remember and admire her direct and loving manner, her passion for life, her ability to tell a GREAT story and her abiding faith in God.
Stephanie Ranno, Vice President, Business Development and Account Management
One of the smartest women I know didn’t get her degree. By all accounts the work world would overlook her as a success. To me she is fantastic example of what the “ideal worker” should possess. As automation and machine learning increase in prevalence, the human skills – formerly referred to as “soft skills” – will also rise in importance. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report outlines these top human skills for the future: Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, Creativity, Communication, Collaboration, Curiosity, Initiative, Grit, Adaptability, Leadership, along with Social and Cultural Awareness.
Mom loves reading. Magazines like Wired and books of all kinds take up space in her home office to make her a more informed and CRITICAL THINKER. She loves learning and, in her 60s, stepped up at her job to master a new production technology with ADAPTABILITY and GRIT. She’s started her own design shop, taught herself design programs, and took classes to better her techniques after a lay-off. Talk about CREATIVITY and INITIATIVE! She loves asking questions and her CURIOSITY makes the businesses she works for better .She is open to feedback and making changes where necessary to grow and has sacrificed her own needs for the advancement of others—the hallmarks of servant LEADERSHIP. She may not be recognized in the way I think she should be, but I hope she knows on this day celebrating powerful, impactful women and every day, I think she’s one of the best.
I love you mom.
Julie Lowe, Chief Culture Officer
A woman I admire, and a force to reckon with, is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the infamous RBG! Her tiny stature is a front for her strength, intelligence and unwavering dedication to fighting for gender equality and women’s rights among so many other important issues. Her life tells a story worth admiring and one that will be remembered long after she is gone. I simply love that she has become a symbol in pop culture as “The Notorious R.B.G”. Her spunk and passion for the issues she believes in offers a strong role model for young women growing up today who will need to carry on the fight for equal rights.
RBG once said, “My mother told me to be a lady. And for her, that meant be your own person, be independent.” Couldn’t agree more!
Katie Hart, Account Manager
The woman I admire most is my mother. My mother worked her way from a department manager at Sears up the corporate ladder to a VP position with GGP. She was the kind of mom that would close a major leasing deal on Friday and then be in the stands on Saturday cheering us on at a softball game. There has never been a challenge that she couldn’t take on including showing breast cancer who is boss. She was a perfect example for my sister and I that women can be anything they want to be. For that, I will forever be grateful to her. I am beyond proud to be her daughter.