Monday, October 11, 2010


I've written before about being the only female Manager at Rockwell. When I became a Manager, I was touring my Department and I looked at the "sell sheet" which showed the jobs "for sale". "For Sale", in the manufacturing parlance, meant that jobs were completed and were ready to be inspected. I saw the initials "RM" posted on a great number of jobs. I asked the supervisor in the section, "Where's that RM guy?" The supervisor pointed to a woman and said, "That's Rita." I gave myself a mental tongue-lashing for assuming it was a "guy"! I introduced myself to Rita who was a young, tall, black, woman with "processed" hair--hair cascading in curls down to her shoulders. I told her I was impressed with the number of jobs she had for sale. She smiled and said, "Been wonderin' when you'd make it around to see me." I asked about her background and learned that she had transferred from Tulsa. I asked if she had any questions and she said, "Sure--how can I get YOUR job, Miz Raypole?" I immediately liked her self-confidence and chutzpah! I answered, "Make an appointment after work and we can talk about it". She always addressed me as "Miz Raypole"; I told her to call me Sue, but she said that Southern people didn't do that!

That afternoon, my secretary Myra told me that one of my employees had made an appointment to talk with me after work. I learned that Rita had a baby at age 14, had been able to finish high school and 2 years of college and was 28 years old! She told me that when she heard I'd received the promotion, she'd gone to my old department to "check out what kind of boss" I was!

When a Team Leader position came open, the Contract stated that I was able to choose a candidate from among the top 5 senior candidates. Several of Rita's co-workers encouraged her to sign the bid form in an effort to prevent another person from being promoted--it was all mean-spirited because a less-senior person seemed to be the odds-on favorite to the one who thought he desrved the promotion--and he wanted the presumed favorite blocked; when Rita signed the bid form the so-called "favorite" was then at number 6 and out of the bidding! With their internecine tactics, the Union members never considered that a woman would even be considered for the job! Rita was number 4 in seniority of all the bidders. I interviewed each of the top 5 candidates and Rita was, far and away, the best candidate for the job. Rita became the FIRST female Team Leader! She also became the "Employee Of The Month" in the Company's awards program. Because of one of the supervisors in the department taking off work for an operation, I decided to hire another supervisor. I posted the job opening in-house and I received 24 resumes. After interviewing all of the candidates, I chose Rita. She was the first BLACK, FEMALE supervisor in the Company! Rita did such a spectacular job that she was chosen as "Supervisor Of The Month". During this time, I was chosen as the "Manager Of The Year".

When we finished the Contract, ahead of schedule AND under budget in 1988, I was able to help Rita secure a position with Rohr in California. We kept in touch for several years but eventually lost contact. I left aircraft, returned to International and retired in 2002.

One evening, at home, I answered the phone and on the other end I heard, "Miz Raypole, this is". She didn't need to finish; I screamed, "Rita!" She told me that she had been selected as the Manager Of The Year and that she wanted me to attend the award ceremony. I told her I couldn't and she told me she'd already bought my airplane ticket and that I had to come! I went and I was seated next to her at the banquet table. When Rita received her award she started her speech by saying, "Beside me tonight I have two women--on this side is my mother who gave me life and on the other side is MIZ Sue Raypole--who gave me my other life." I began crying as Rita told the story of my promoting her and she knew that nobody else would have given her the opportunity! She ended by saying, "When I told Miz Raypole this last week she said, "Oh, Rita, you couldn't hide your light under a bushel, someone else would have recognized you!"

Rita went on by saying she had never heard the phrase, "hide your light under a bushel" and was surprised when I told her the quote was Biblical. She ended by saying, "I'm STILL learning from my mother and Miz Raypole!"

1 comment:

Mona Lisa said...

We're all learning from you! Thank you for being my mentor and my "liberal education".