GIRL UP! Why more women of color and women in the military need to be involved in their community
This year has been filled with nothing but amazing experiences and opportunities so far. In January I had the pleasure of being a guest speaker for the 2019 Girl Up Washington Regional Summit in Seattle, Wa. For those who aren’t familiar with the Girl Up initiative it was founded by the United Nations in 2010 and they continue to work across the globe to help achieve gender equality. Their goal is to empower young girls to become leaders.
I will say going into this event I didn’t know exactly what to expect as it was my first real speaking engagement and I did not know the questions they would ask. I got there and was met with so much warmth and love and the girls were absolutely amazing. I was slotted to be interviewed and speak alongside YWCA Seattle’s president Maria Wilcox, Pres. and General Manager of the Seattle Storm Alisha Valavanis and Anu Jain of Viome. I was nervous because all of these women were well established in the community and here I was a girl from Georgia who moved here for the Navy.
I wondered how could I make a difference? What did I have that these girls needed? I was given the list of questions that were to be asked and I saw one question scratched out and it was a question on being a woman of color in the Navy as well as the engineering field. I made sure to tell them to ask because as I looked around there were quite a few young girls of color who I knew needed to hear my story.
I was asked real questions and have real answers and had hoped that what I was saying would touch someone but I had no idea the level in which it would. Before I went on an amazing young lady Archika Dogra who has created her own STEM company had spoken and I saw so much of myself in this young lady. She had dreams and she had goals and wasn’t a girl of color who understood firsthand the challenges of being all of the above. I spoke with her before going on and congratulated her and told her how proud she was making me as a woman who works in the engineering field. As I was being interviewed I saw this young day wiping tears and afterwards I spoke with her and I knew the tears what from inspiration. The idea of seeing yourself in someone else at a young age is powerful. Young girls of color need to see women of color doing what’s they love so that they will have the confidence to achieve their dreams as well. Having women of color in the community is vital but it is also necessary to have military women represented as well.
I had taken noticed that women of color were underrepresented but when a young lady and her mother approached me after speaking and said that I was one of the few women in the military that they had actually met I was shocked. Her daughter expressed her interest but said that she was getting advice from men but really wanted someone that she could relate to instead. I feel as though I know that our duty is to handle worldwide tasking but we are doing ourselves and these young girls a disservice by not being present in the community. It is time that we are giving honest answers and insight on what is next and letting the young girls who are interested in joining the military know that they can also have a life outside of the service. Showing that you can become and author, run a business or finishing school is vital to helping them transition into this lifestyle. We have made big leaps and stride and this experience has really given me the fuel to continue on.