#8 MENTOR: Be a Front Porch Lady Featuring Esther Silver Parker

By Kathy Korman Frey

A dignified, beautiful, African-American woman stood at the podium during the Wake Forest Women’s Weekend. All eyes were on Esther Silver-Parker, one of the most senior former executives at Wal-Mart and now president of the Silver-Parker Group.  Would she talk about women’s advancement to the C-suite? Would she share her secrets to success? That, she did. And one of them was not at all what we expected.

Silver-Parker grew up in rural North Carolina, in a two-bedroom house, with her parents and many siblings.  She recounted a screenplay-like story about a group of women she called: The Front Porch Ladies. “The Front Porch Ladies were the women who sat on their front porches as we came home from school,” Silver-Parker said. “They would treat our business like it was their business.”

When Silver-Parker was accepted to college, imagine her surprise when the Front Porch Ladies showed up on her front porch. There they all stood, having brought with them a full set of blue luggage for her to take off to school. “From time to time at college, I would get letters from the Front Porch Ladies,” Silver-Parker told the audience. “They would write words of encouragement, and sometimes include a dollar or two.”

A group of women, probably over-looked and taken for granted, played a pivotal and memorable role in a young woman’s life. And, there, now, with her silver hair and power suit, Silver-Parker remembered the Front Porch Ladies.

Will YOU take it upon yourself to get involved in the life of a woman you know, to help aggressively and actively?

Are we evolving, as a society of women, to do what it take to be successful? Here, today, is our chance.

For instance, the below graph indicates a fascinating pattern: Search trends for “International Women’s Day” have been on the decline…until, that is, 2012. Is there something in the air? Will you be part of the upswing?

Be a Front Porch Lady.

Be part of the New Sisterhood. Stand on YOUR front porch, and call out. Get involved in the life of another woman. The time for pleasantries and being polite is over. The time for KNOWING that we can and will help one another is here.

Today…Who will you support?

Today…How will you do it?

Today…Who must know you’re there?

Will you send an email? Will you make a call?  Start with Ashley, and then move on to someone in YOUR life.

What will you do, today?

*****

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19 thoughts on “#8 MENTOR: Be a Front Porch Lady Featuring Esther Silver Parker

  • I love the “front porch lady” theme. I am a product of a community where front porch ladies still reside. They have a special way of holding others accountable, while making it known that they expect the best from you. Thank you for this gentle reminder about the importance of mentorship and investing in the lives of others.

  • I love this post! There are so many events out there for starting your own business that are meant to get you “pumped,” but most times I leave these events thinking “I’m already motivated, I need access to resources and people that care enough to help me with my venture.” aka We need more front porch ladies in the world…

    • That is a great point. I talked about this topic at the #WGBiz Women Grow Biz conference this past summer. The concept of “the two yous.” One you gets all excited and pumped. We’re yes people. The other “you” comes back to the office, dorm, or house…gets sucked into the email vortex…and action / accomplishments /self-confidence begins to diminish. I am glad to hear you say this.

  • I work with women who run their business from home. Many suffer from “Lone Ranger Syndrome” (trying to be successful doing everything themselves without any support). One of the things I always encourage them to do is reach out and form support teams with other women in similar positions. It is such a powerful thing to see the transformation this can bring about. It is like watching a tighly closed bud blossom into the most beautiful flower.

    I think the points in your post highlight that we now live in a world that can seem very disconnected, yet it is a human need to feel connected. It is up to all of us to take personal responsibility for getting connected and reaching out to connect with others to help each toehr reach our full potential.

  • Great post. As a female director in the highly competitive entertainment business it was a great reminder to help each other succeed and be accountable. I belong to the AWD (Alliance of Women Directors) and will share this post with them!

  • Such a great story… So many people are hesitant to be “nosy” but this shows that “nosy” can also mean “supportive”!

  • I have several front porch ladies that have impacted my life in mant ways, making me the person… Among them my Mom Mrs. Lois Mbekeani, my Mother in-law Mrs. Amina Karim, Her Excellency President Joyce Banda, former Minister Mrs. Eddah Chitalo, Mrs. Esnath Kaliyati and PS Dr. Mary Shawa, Mama Moyo (formerly a media professional from Zimbabwe) and Ms. Elizabeth O’heany (former Ghanaian journalist, BBC), former Minister Mrs. Queen Gondwe, Mrs. Margaret Mulanga, and Mrs. Dzabala Bwanausi

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