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In Celebration of International Women's Day

March 8, 2023

International Women's Day is a global celebration of the social, political, economic and cultural achievements of women. It is also a day to embrace and actively accelerate women's equality. 

In celebration of International Women's Day, we are honoring the women of Billups by sharing the stories of women who wholeheartedly inspire them. 

Jaime Byrdak, Head of Media

Here’s to the strong women - may we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.

One of my most proud accomplishments is the growth I see in my 12 year old daughter each and every day. I am reminded that she is always watching by her actions and success. She advocates for herself by prioritizing her needs and is a strong student with extreme dedication to her sports training. She is a responsible big sister to her twin brothers and has a business-minded mentality shown through creating and selling custom made items. It is amazing to watch her grow and take control of her future at such a young age.

jaimebyrdak and daughterJaime's daughter (left) and Jaime (right). 

Amber Larkins, Content Marketing Manager

The woman I admire most is my grandma. She was raised to be a model and debutante, and even starred in a local TV beauty competition in the 1960s. She went to college to get her Mrs. degree and expected to be a stay-at-home mom, but joined the workforce in the 1980s. Both of her children have disabilities and she always fought to give them the support they needed and played a pivotal role in raising my sisters and I, helping to guide us and allowing us to live in her house whenever we needed as we got older.

She is very passionate about standing up for what she believes in and was very excited to go to her first protest in 2016. She's also an independent woman who likes to work out and takes great pride in her physical abilities (always saying that my grandfather can't carry heavy furniture because he's in his mid-80s and but she can because she's still in her late 70s). She's a brave woman who is terrified of electronics, but now uses her smart phone to control her hearing aids and recently played her first video game (on a VR headset!). 

She's always regretted dropping out of school to get married and pushed my sisters and I to get good educations, sending us to private schools and making sure we got through college. My youngest sister is still in training for physical therapy, but I have a Master's in Journalism and my other sister a PhD in Neuroscience. I don't think we would be where we are today if not for my grandmother's unwavering support to nurture us into being independent women. 

She's a wonderful grandma, great-grandma and woman in general who faced a lot of adversity living in a time when women's roles in society were rapidly changing, but remains the rock of our family.

image (76)Photo on the left: Amber's sister (left), with Amber (middle) and her grandmother (right). Photo on the right: Amber's grandfather (left) and grandmother (right).

Marissa Padilla, Account Director

The woman I admire the most is definitely my mom. She has always and forever been my hero. Whenever I need someone, she is always there and is my biggest supporter. She’s the strongest lady I know. There’s nothing she can’t do. If I have doubts about something or I'm struggling with something, I know I can turn to her for honest and true advice. She is the epitome of what a mother should be. I'm lucky that I get to call her mine.

IMG_8709 (1)Marissa's mother (left) with Marissa (right). 

Donna Michelson, Accounting Specialist

International Women's Day means a day to reflect on where I've been and where I'm going.

One of the woman I admire most is my paternal great-grandmother, Anna April Salzman. She traveled to the United States from Austria in the late 1890s through Ellis Island with her husband, my paternal great-grandfather, Kalman. They ran a saloon in Paterson, NJ and raised 6 children. I was gifted the candlesticks that she brought here from "the old country," and they are prominently displayed in our living room, a "monument" to her legacy. Her oldest son, my grandfather, Nathan, became a doctor and his oldest son, my father, David, was a Pharmacist. I will always be grateful for the opportunities she made possible for them and by extension for me.

One of the greatest challenges I have overcome is moving 3,000 miles from New Jersey to California at the tender age of 19. I had to find an apartment, a job, pay my tuition...allowing me to become a responsible grown-up. Once I graduated, I had to start paying back my student loan. I made the last payment a month after my first child was born (ten years later!). Not a unique story, I'm sure, but looking back on it now, youth definitely gives you the idea that you can do anything. Glad I have that spirit which I feel was passed down to me from Anna.

Photo of Donna's great grandmother. 

May LaFlamme, Marketing Strategist 

While I am inspired by many incredible women, my older sister is the one who comes to mind first when I think of embracing equality. She has consistently and without failure followed her own path in life - always questioning societal norms and only subscribing to beliefs that she deems fair, equal and inclusive. She is someone I have immense respect for and I look up to the way she champions equality in aspect of her life. 

IMG_7201 2May's sister (left) with May (right). 

Shannon Durkan, Regional Director 

We are at a busy time in our lives. It’s no longer weeks that fly by but months. Stopping to smell the roses is an act of appreciation. It's taking time to recognize the daily moments that bring us joy and that’s what International’s Women’s Day means to me. I think we honor women in our lives everyday but this is a specific day to stop and celebrate their accomplishments. 

My mom, Mary, is one of the strongest women I’ve ever met. As a young child, her parents decided to pursue the American dream and leave a poor life in Ireland. All through grammar school and high school, she worked multiple jobs. Once she graduated, she went to work for the San Francisco Unified School District. Her most rewarding experience helping with the Reading Recovery Program, where children had sadly made it to 4th/5th grade without learning to read. It was around this busy time, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and was also tending to two elderly parents. She never complained and I think about her often as I try to find balance. Now, fully retired, she still looks after our family. She watches our daughter, Nellie, twice a week and I never leave her house without a bag full of groceries and advice. Yesterday’s was two-fold, “Forget the extension and do your taxes" and “there’s nothing wrong with undershirts, it’s freezing”. 

Billups, as a whole, is an organization that supports women and inclusion. My role is to be the voice of my team and support them. Whether it’s talking through fair compensation and promotions or making sure they’re treated fairly and with respect, I want them to feel I’m with them all the way.

My greatest accomplishment is being a mother. Becoming a mom to Nellie has changed my life completely. All the things you hear about motherhood are true and I want her to have all the opportunities imaginable. I think about the next 5 years, 10 years and 20 years and what we can do as parents to make sure she’s a well-rounded, kind person.

One of the most recent times I overcame a challenge is being offered the Regional Director job at Billups. Before Billups, I had a successful career was a large OOH vendor. My team and I were top revenue generators year over year, and were often recognized for our achievements. However, after years of hard work, the company wouldn’t match industry salary requirements. I pushed back and even had a 1:1 with the CEO. I knew my work ethic was worth more so I left a very secure job to jump to a new company. When the pandemic shutdowns quickly eliminated my position, along with so many of our peers, I was suddenly unemployed for the first time in my career. I started looking and found the Billups position a few weeks into my search. I had multiple interviews with Billups and I knew I was a fit of the role. With each interview, I felt more certain it was the job I really wanted and had the confidence to say it. I was overjoyed to accept the offer and I’ve never been happier.

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