I, like many of my peers, am in a dual military marriage. Most of us are just doing our best to navigate complicated professional and family lives and multiple moves. My husband has deployed twice since we’ve had kids. Additionally, in a place like DC I’m a working professional, just like my civilian colleagues. There’s an added piece that you could be called on to move or be deployed at any time.
Most importantly, be who you are. Being in the military does not mean that you surrender all things feminine if you don’t want to. I know plenty of women in the military who love fashion and make up and it makes them no less of an officer or Airman.
The most effective thing I’ve personally learned is how to stand up for myself. As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to stand up for peers and those coming after me.
Taking care of your people is ingrained in officership. When I’m in charge of something my first thought is usually how I can empower the people who are working with me or for me. I think I’m pretty equal in that for the women and men that work for me, however I know that many women will ask for less. It’s then my responsibility as the officer to ensure they are getting what they need, too.
It really is important to hear multiple views on something, and in my work in national security it’s even more important. The more people who have input on planning a mission or developing strategy the more likely both are to succeed.
Give women the microphone more often. If you find yourself in a meeting and you agree with a woman who just made a point, don’t just restate her point. Redirect back to her and give her recognition for the idea. You’ll have made a friend and added more views to the conversation.
A lot of people in the military don’t use all the leave that they can and I always tell my people they need to take all their leave, especially when it comes to parental leave. I hope in my daughter and son’s lifetime to see a world where the US has generous parental leave for everyone.
As a woman in a position of authority it’s my job to use the entitlements I’ve earned and show that it’s OK to do that, and that it makes you no less of a leader. Take all of the parental leave that you possibly can and be unapologetic about it. It’s the only way we can normalize the idea of spending time with your family and pave the path for the next generation.
I’m in a job that travels a lot and that requires me to come up with creative childcare solutions. In the DC area child development centers have long waistlists, and not all of us live next to family. We are lucky to have an amazing live-in caregiver. But again, those are policy changes I’d like to see around universal, widely available childcare for everyone that needs it.