When I was asked to write the blog post for this week, I genuinely had to ask my marketing coordinator, “What do you want me to write on for Women’s History Month?” It’s not that I am unfamiliar with the topic, but I believe my question was a testament to how far we have come as a society and how far we can go.
|Crystal Neihoff, |
My contribution to women’s history, or more appropriately the impact that women in history have made on me, is multi-faceted. I attended the U.S. Naval Academy and graduated from that institution in 2004. The first class to permit women into the Midshipman ranks was the class of 1980, and while I read the stories of the first women in the Brigade (both the horrors and the triumphs), my experience was far different from theirs. In fact, when I was in the second semester of my senior year at the Academy, I was privileged to serve at the third-highest Midshipman leadership level in a Brigade of 4,000 men and women. Above me were two other women. When I graduated from the Naval Academy and received my commission into the Marine Corps, I was among the ranks of some of the strongest female leaders I had ever met, and yet I had only just begun my Marine Corps career.
|Crystal with her family upon returning from her|
second Iraq deployment.
I spent eight years in the Marine Corps with two deployments to Iraq. I worked with, and had the privilege of leading, some exceptionally dedicated and professional individuals. I served under amazing commanding officers—male and female alike—and I rarely thought much of any limitation or separation of the genders. We all wore flak jackets and we all carried M16s. Whether it was a male or female pilot flying an aircraft, the enemy shot at it just the same and whether it was a male or female logistics officer leading a convoy, the enemy attacked it just the same. Men cleared buildings and women talked to Iraqi women to build partnerships between locals and military forces—both were critical to any success.
It is quite timely, then, as we approach Women’s History Month, that our national conversation has recently turned to opening combat roles to women and whether this necessitates including women in the draft. While there is much to debate around this issue, I am happy that the conversation is ongoing.
|Quote by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.|
Now that I have been out of the service for three years, I look at the lens of women’s history through leadership. I have been fortunate in the many opportunities I have had to date because of the women (and men) before me who fought against sexual harassment, stereotypes, and gender discrimination. I am where I am, and I know that there are no barriers (only obstacles) to a woman’s success because of the exceptional leaders that I have worked with. Whether it is more women in political office, more women in combat roles, or more women entrepreneurs, the fact is that as more young girls see women in leadership roles, more of these young girls will know that they can become a leader in any field.
There is a popular Facebook meme that says “Well behaved women rarely make history.” While this is always a crowd pleaser, I’d offer that the people who make history are the ones who lead. Show me a leader, and I’ll show you fifteen followers who aspire to be that leader. Show me a woman who leads, and I’ll show you thirty girls who have a new dream!
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