By Staff Sgt. Christen Bloomfield , 115th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 15, 2010
MADISON, Wisc. -- The workforce is ever changing with new highs and lows every year; by the end of 2010 economist are predicting that for the first time in history, women will be leading the work force with statistics of 51 percent women to 49 percent men. As the percentage of jobs held by men and women are ever changing, there's a question on how diversity is changing our work force, and also today's military.
It wasn't until the mid-1940s that women joined the National Guard as their own element, called the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). The demands of war, from World War I to Vietnam, made it necessary for the military to utilize women as contractors in medical positions to release men into combat. However, their role in leading the nation to become the greatest military in the world was unfortunately short-lived since they were demobilized soonafter the wars ended.
Working to have bills passed through Congress, women can now hold down uninterrupted careers in today's military structure, with minimal restrictions of women in combat zones.
"Women's careers in the military have evolved and changed." said Brig. Gen. Peg Bair, Wisconsin Air National Guard chief of staff. "Women have opened those doors by proving to be as smart and physically able as men."
In an interview in 1975, Adolf Hitler's Weapons Production Chief, Albert Speer, talks about the value of women and the contribution to the U.S. Military by stating, "How wise you were to bring your women into your military and into your labor force. Had we done that initially as you did, it could well have affected the whole course of the war. We would have found out, as you did, that women are equally effective and for some skills, superior to males."
Bair explains that diversity in the guard is not something that is gender, race or ethnically, or culturally specific. It's the unique abilities each individual brings to the table of readiness, which has helped assist women to participate into the military.
"All of our individual talents, aspects, and perspectives are different," said the general. "Where someone is weak, someone's stronger."
Described by Wisconsin Army National Guard command chief warrant officer Lynn Ryan, "diversity means increasing my awareness with people that are not like me in thought or appearance, and valuing them for the strengths and unique experiences they bring to the team."
Bair initially enlisted into the Air Force as a nurse in 1974, and by that time, she recalls there were just as many men in the medical squadron as women in the traditionally female career.
"Back then I saw men and women promoted and educated to excel at their jobs equally in the military," said Bair.
Eileen Drake, a retired master sergeant that now works as a Badger Yellow Ribbon support specialist, recalls that she was required to go through "female-only" classes in the late 1960s focused on teaching women to maintain their femininity while working in what was a traditionally male role. Drake laughs, "Revlon representatives were brought in to teach us how to put on makeup and put our hair in curlers to show us how to be a woman in the military."
With the rise of women in the workforce, we have to wonder how this will affect the military: will the Wisconsin National Guard follow suit with increasing numbers of female Airmen and Soldiers? From 1972 to 2008, the percentage of female Soldiers in the military has risen from 2 percent to 14 percent. Bair explains, "... as the generations go on, women don't work inside the house that much anymore. Everybody is working [outside the home]."
Wisconsin State Equal Employment and Diversity Manager, 2nd Lieutenant Ronald Adams says that it takes vision to understand that any successful workplace must look like and adjust to the needs of an ever changing world.
He makes clear that the senior leadership values diversity and is committed to ensuring the Wisconsin National Guard promotes diversity of people and thought at all levels within the organization.
"Whether it's recruiting, retention, mentoring or promotions, we want every service member to know and operate with the premise that this is an inclusive organization that values each member based on their talent and potential," Adams added.
Ryan utilized her talent and potential when she enlisted in 1974 as a supply clerk while she was originally working as a civilian at a bank in Eau Claire, Wisconsin Ryan speaks freely that members have to be willing to take advantage of the available opportunities given.
"The National Guard has offered a lot of opportunities," said Ryan. "Hopefully I've taken advantage of the ones that have benefited me and my National Guard values the most."
The multiple opportunities available to members of the Wisconsin Guard is what's so appealing to a significant amount of new recruits, males and females alike. Sgt. Maj. Scullion shares that her main motivation to join the military in 1973 was to earn education benefits and to travel; both of which she has enjoyed completing her bachelors of science degree in business management and having traveled around the world. Scullion had initially enlisted as a flight operations specialist, and eventually worked her way up the ranks to become the deputy chief of staff for aviation of the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs. Scullion attributes her success to always being ready.
"Always be ready for your next promotion," said Scullion. "When you're always ready, opportunities come."
Adams mentions that stories like (Leading Women in the Guard) are inspirational to young women showcasing they too can lead at the highest levels within the organization.
"What's really great about this is that these Leading Women are right here in the Wisconsin National Guard for the next generation of women," says Adams. "To mentor them and provide first hand advice to overcome the challenges that are sure to come."
He goes on to describe how female service members have to make different decisions than their male counterparts such as when they start their families. "Sure, I can advise them," he says. "... but how nice is it to also have access to someone who had to make that same decision."
Bair, Ryan, Drake, and Scullion aren't the only leading women in the Wisconsin National Guard. Just a small percentage of them include: occupational health and safety manager, and commander of Wisconsin Med Det (-) Col. Shirley Kubiak, currently deployed commander of 132nd Lt. Col. Leah Moore, Executive Officer of Joint Staff Lt. Col. Kari Wiegand, Deputy Director of Personnel Lt. Col. Joane Mathews, Director of Public Affairs Lt. Col. Jackie Guthrie, Human Resource Division Chief Lt. Col. Julie Gerety, Service Member Support Division Chief Lt. Col. Tammy Gross, Inspector General Maj. Sherry Holly, Technician Branch Chief Maj. June A. Dykstra, Health System Service Maj. Rebecca Giese, and, Military Personnel Supervisor Chief Warrant Officer Brenda Essie.
America was built on the very premise of diversity. People of different nationalities and various backgrounds made, and continue to make, major contributions to our great country and military - women are one of these many groups we seek to learn and grow from. Women are writing their own history by making significant contributions to America's future demonstrating great progress in our country and military without losing their identity. The Wisconsin National Guard celebrates these attributes.