Lela is many things: strong, smart, powerful, determined. She is also a BOSS boss. She’s a wife, mother, sister, and daughter. She is a side-hustler. She’s a breast cancer survivor. She is a pepper jelly wizard.
She is Lela Bellows Gerald, and she is beyond deserving of this Women Wednesday.
Don’t believe me? (Well, that’s rude.) You don’t have to take my word for it. Throughout this piece, you’ll see the words of my coworkers proving how badass Lela is.
Lela got her degree in communications even though her father said she would never find a job in advertising. However, a number of years later she is top dog in the marketing department of a global company.
For many years, Lela worked on the agency side of the business. Bringing in new customer accounts, managing their ideas and working with creative to turn those ideas into reality. At her current job, she is on the in-house side. All very similar, but instead of working for a rotating base of customers, she is organizing and running our companies’ marketing projects.
Lela has been in the marketing/advertising world her whole working life, except for a one-year stint in 1990 when she decided to take up painting furniture as a job! She said she wasn’t great at it, but something tells me that’s not entirely true.
Women in Leadership Roles
Lela started with our current company as the Director of Global Marketing. In 2014, she was promoted to Vice President of Global Marketing. As one of the first women VPs at this company, I asked her what it’s like being a woman in executive roles to which she responded, “sexism has changed so little in the last 40 years.”
I know that’s true, but it’s still a bummer.
There is always a challenge if you are the only woman or one of a few in a male-dominated industry. Just by nature of being different. There’s a different lens that your voice is heard through. When a man says something it’s assertive and confident, but if a woman says that same thing it is pushy and overbearing.
Motherhood while being a full-time badass
Lela is the mother of two fantastic boys, Max and Jack. When asked how she handled raising two boys while working full-time, her immediate response was, “Oh my stars.”
She said the hardest part was getting past the pangs of guilt she felt when she wasn’t at home with them. But, as she got older, she realized it was the right thing for her and for them. She wanted them to grow up and see that their mother could do anything their fathers could do. (And she can shoot a gun better, too!)
There is a new study showing the benefits of having a working mother, especially for boys. It helps them have a more “egalitarian view” of gender roles. The study shows that sons of working mothers perform nearly twice as many domestic duties (laundry, changing diapers, etc.) than sons of stay-at-home moms. Now, there’s a good chance if I asked Lela about the number of household chores the boys did/do, she’d probably scoff. BUT, hopefully, it means they will make for good husbands and fathers one day!
Lela has had breast cancer twice, both detected early. She says looking back at it now that it’s all less significant because she wasn’t close to dying either time. But in the moment, when she first heard the diagnoses, it was dramatic and scary.
One of our coworkers, Maureen, said:
Lela has had breast cancer (twice) but said that’s behind her, and she does not let it define who she is. She is many things besides that.
And she is, as you can see!
This is where Lela’s bad assery shines. If you have never had Lela’s pepper jelly, there is no time like the present! Lela’s father, Jack (a.k.a. Jacko), perfected the pepper jelly recipe and passed it on to his lovely daughter. After many, many friends told her to start selling it she finally decided to last October. In just three months (October-December 2017), she sold 600 jars!!
She makes all the pepper jelly herself!! And – OMG – is it delicious!! This year she is on track to sell more than 3,000 jars! :O Some of my favorites are the original mango, delicious cranberry, AND (with the help of Claudette’s honey) fig and honey.
And now I am starving.
I keep telling her, whenever she is ready to take this on full-time, I am 100% down!
As you can see, Lela G. is a total baller. I love her as a boss and as a person. <3 I am very happy she let me do this week’s Women Wednesday about her and I hope you all enjoyed!!