Janet Sheridan: Defining a Prominent Woman
February 1, 2012
I've recently startled friends and acquaintances by asking them to describe the qualities they think a woman would need to be considered prominent in her community.
It would've been faster to go into a chat room, I suppose, but I wanted to judge the seriousness and sanity of the answers I received by the age, body language, and sobriety of the speakers.
In general, once they realized I hadn't asked about the Broncos or the weather, the men and women I questioned looked thoughtful, took their time, and provided insightful responses.
No one talked about women of wealth, good looks, family connections, or impressive homes. Instead, they described personal traits such as competency, knowledge, trustworthiness, and respect for others.
Some focused on women elected to office or appointed to leadership roles in various organizations: "Lots of women are prominent in our community because of the way they perform in their positions," a married couple decided over dinner.
The husband felt that women are influential when they have core ideas or values that guide them: they don't say one thing and do another or change their viewpoint depending on the audience.
"Exactly," his wife agreed, "but at the same time, they're willing to consider the ideas of others. You can trust these women because they look for common ground and keep
As I listened to the ideas of my two friends, I thought how nice it would be if we could send some of our local women to Washington, D.C., on a rescue mission.
Other respondents described another group of important women in Moffat County, those who excel in their careers:
"Craig's full of outstanding working women," a lady with sparkling eyes told me as we munched cookies at a Christmas party. "They learn all they can about their jobs, work hard, and have a positive attitude toward the public. Their co-workers seem to like them as well."
Another guest joined our conversation, selected a piece of fudge, and agreed.
"When you walk into an office, store, or beauty salon, you recognize the indispensable staff members immediately," she said. "They're friendly, skilled, and enjoy what they're doing — no matter what job they have."
I visualized the many women I encounter in workplaces around town who impress me with their work ethic and positive attitude.
As my mom used to say, "Cream rises."
A businessman I talked with as we waited for a meeting to begin mentioned a third category of significant women.
He thought a woman could be prominent in her community based on her role as a mother.
"Women who do a good job with their families add value to all of us," he said.
He explained his belief that mothers who raise their children to become responsible citizens and good parents guarantee the future of all communities:
"What could be more important than that?"
As a teacher and principal, I knew many of those women and valued them.
I ended each discussion by asking the participants to name specific women in Moffat County who possess the characteristics they had described, and each did so without hesitation.
Women of Craig and Moffat County: your fellow citizens notice and value you; they see the good you do in your positions, your careers, and your homes. I hope you've each recognized yourself in this column.
I also hope you'll raise your daughters to be the same sort of women.
For the past two years, I was a speaker at the Girls to Women conference in Craig. The young, enthusiastic eighth-grade girls entered the meeting room at the Holiday Inn of Craig in giggling groups, dressed up for the day, and calling excitedly to friends.
They willingly participated as I interacted with them about the decisions they'll soon make, decisions they'll live with for a long time:
Will they stay in school and graduate?
Will they pursue a career?
Will it require advanced training or college?
Will they marry and, if so, when and whom? Will they move away from Craig or stay?
I finished by asking them to tell me what they hope their future holds and what they will have to do to realize their goals.
As I listened to their answers, I wondered, will this one achieve her dream? Will she cherish her family? Will she serve her community? Will she achieve prominence because of her personal traits?
I hoped the answers would be yes, and yes, and yes, and yes.