Congressman Tells Female Airmen Leaders to be Specialists
Story by SSgt Anthony Agosti on 03/11/2019
Airmen at the 118th Wing, especially female Airmen, got a special presentation from former U.S. Rep. Diane Black March 9, 2019, at Berry Field Air National Guard Base, Nashville, Tennessee.
Black, who gave a large group talk about women in leadership for Women’s History Month, also had a private meeting with select female Airmen leaders during her visit.
“I came here thinking I was going to help inspire them and just the opposite happened to me because I was inspired by hearing their stories,” said Black. “Some of them were bootstrap stories where they came from little or nothing; others were stories about concerns about their children.”
In both her private meeting and in her conversation to the larger group, Black gave examples from her own experience, female role models she admired, and her own personal ideas on what it takes for women to be leaders in typically male-dominant fields.
Black said one of the best ways for women to become leaders is to find a subject they are passionate about and become a specialist in that field. She said getting people to view women as credible is a major challenge for them, so being a specific subject matter expert gets people to listen.
“Once I hear what’s going on throughout the entire conversation, I feel ready to open up and lead the conversation, because I have more expertise,” said Black. “You will be raised up as a leader if you can show that you are the most knowledgeable person in the room.”
“We still face the obstacle that women are just seen as not as competent; so when she stated to not be a generalist, be a specialist, that definitely resonated with the women,” said Senior Master Sgt. Elizabeth Littleton, the human resource advisor for the 118th WG. “She was a specialist in her career field; she had to prove herself through hard work, a lot of footwork, but she did it.”
Black, who was first elected when women only made up 17 percent of the U.S. House, said she knows the hard work women have to do to stand out in fields, like the military, mostly run by men. She said she was very impressed with the knowledge and responsibility of women in the 118th WG, who excel working as pilots, in intelligence, and in critical support roles for the missions.
“It’s a step towards seeing women in a different light,” said Littleton. “We’re not just placed in one box as caregivers.”