Making a difference through daily acts of inclusion

by Maj. Ebony D. Haney
51st Communications Squadron

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- As we continue to celebrate diversity throughout the year, this month’s focus is on celebrating women for all the contributions made to further and advance our society.

While there is a certain positive aura behind being a minority and female within the world’s greatest Air Force, the struggle is still truly real for many of our teammates, especially women.

According to December 2018 DoD Personnel and Workforce reports, women make up 16.6 percent of active duty Air Force members. While the stats may point to an alarming amount of underrepresentation, unheard voices, and untapped potential, we should all pause and think about how we’re encouraging diversity and inclusion for the women on our teams as we go about our daily interactions.

Women have unique perspectives and help facilitate diversity and better use of skill sets.

What makes the U.S. Air Force the greatest military is our diversity and ability to critically think, evolve and adapt to change in innovative ways.

In an effort to change the things that detract from diversity and inclusion, we should reflect on and celebrate how Air Force heroes have trail blazed successful paths for women.

Gen. Janet Carol Wolfenbarger was the first woman to achieve the rank of a four-star general in the Air Force. Chief Master Sergeant Dorothy “Dottie” Holmes was the first African-American female to reach the highest enlisted rank and the first female to serve over 30 years and be assigned to the Air Force Academy. Maj. Gen. Marcelite J. Harris was the first female aircraft maintenance officer, director of maintenance and one of the first to command at the Air Force Academy.

All three women were able to overcome overwhelming challenges and cultural detractors to pave the way for better opportunities for future generations.

We should consider how culturally acceptable acts such as the use of offensive slogans and chants and the sale of unit coins and patches that portray women as disgraceful and unprofessional are detractors from diversity and the work that these female giants worked so hard to advance.

In a world where body shaming, depression and low self-esteem are potential killers for women, it can be tough to take a stand and speak up to change things that are culturally acceptable, yet do not belong.

If we truly want to foster more diversity and infuse inclusion, we must keep breaking down barriers and uneasiness to build up stronger individuals and teams. We should take the time to help build confidence in young girls and teach our youth how to work in diverse environments. We should welcome new ideas, perspectives and encourage people to stay involved and engaged as critical thinkers.

When it’s all said and done, the ultimate goal should always be to foster environments that facilitate a commitment to better our communities and Air Force culture with mutual respect and dignity for all, every day.

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