Have you ever been the only woman in the room, providing a mission brief to a team of Type A, military personnel with big muscles, chunky watches, low voices and really big egos….and wondered “are they going to listen to anything I have to say?!”
Women make up less than 25% of each military branch. The Air Force leads with the highest percentage of women, and the Marine Corps takes the lowest with less than 10% of women in of the total force. Due to these statistics, it is highly likely that a woman will regularly be the minority, but that’s OK.
If you answered yes to the question above, well then I’m glad to know that I’m not the only woman who has pondered that! I’m going to provide you with some insight that I gathered while serving as a Marine Corps Officer from 2012-2017. I noticed that I received a lot of unwanted attention from males, that my opinions and ideas usually differed from the majority, and that whether I wanted it or not, other women were watching.
How to Handle Unwanted attention:
Set a strong foundation of your character so that when the unwanted attention happens, either positive or negative, you can feel confident in your response or reaction because you have already done the work to define the type of woman you want to be. A few tips to help you get started….
1. Spend 10 minutes a day in self-reflection:
a. Example Question: “What 3 things do I want to be known for when I die?”
2. Set your personal values:
a. Example: “Faith, Family, Accountability, Integrity, Attitude”
3. Create a personal mission statement:
a. This can be relative to work, but understand that work does not define you. EXAMPLE: “My personal mission statement is to lead, train and equip women to become more effective leaders in male dominated professions through relentless perseverance as a woman of God and to be light in a dark world.”
4. Define your Hero, Role Model, and Mentor:
a. By establishing these you can seek guidance in times of need. Or think to yourself, “What would my hero do in this situation?”
It’s OK if everyone doesn’t like you!
Diversity in teams in a GREAT THING. The variety of your ideas actually provides value to the team by introducing new perspectives. If you come up with ideas people don’t agree with, try not to take it personal. Our life experiences provide our brains with data to develop our individual perspectives, so of course a man and woman with different life experiences will have different opinions. Remember that leadership is about doing WHAT is right, not so much about WHO is right. The trick is to create a space where each member feels:
A few things to help in creating a space like this include; letting everyone in the room share their ideas before final decisions are made, encouraging debate, and encouraging critical thinking to all ranks within the team. If you feel disliked, uninspired, or a lack of motivation to bring up your ideas due to fear of embarrassment or bullying by a certain person or group of people, talk to those individuals outside the group setting. Ask questions to learn and understand their perspective. See what you can find in terms of similarities!
You are inspiring other women.
My Grandfather was a Marine for 33 years, my father was a Marine for over 20, and I didn’t meet a female Marine until I was 19 years old! There are young girls and women all over the world admiring your boldness. It may seem like big shoes to fill, but all you have to do is be yourself so that other girls can do the same. If it’s not authentic for you to be “one of the boys” then don’t try to be. Young girls coming from various backgrounds and cultures deserve to grow up, put on the uniform and still be “one of the girls.” You can create change for women by the example you set, giving other women compliments despite your personal insecurities and creating positive communities for the women in your military organization. (Monthly coffee, workouts or leadership training) Your impact on them is HUGE!
Recap on Key Points:
· Be prepared for unwanted attention by setting a strong personal foundation.
· Know that it’s OK if everyone doesn’t like you! (or your ideas)
· Keep in mind that you are serving a greater purpose for the future generation.
If you’re a woman leading in the military and this helped you in some way, let me know!!! How did this blog help you? What topics would you like to see in more depth? If you’re a woman leading in the military and you have additional insight, recommendations or tips on what has helped you, please share to Taylor.Galadyk@gmail.com