The National Training Center and Fort Irwin Military Equal Opportunity/Equal Employment Opportunity offices and 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment hosted a Women’s Equality Day celebration on Aug. 30, 2023, at Sandy Basin Community Center, at Fort Irwin, Calif.
Women’s Equality Day celebrates the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920, which officially gave women the right to vote.
The MEO/EEO offices and 11th Armored Cav. Regt. localized and modernized the celebration by hosting a panel of female Soldiers and a military spouse to speak on their experiences of women’s equality.
The panel included Maj. Amanda Weyeneth, the personnel officer in charge with Regimental Support Squadron, 11th Armored Cav. Regt., 1st Lt. Eliza Ewing, scout platoon leader with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cav. Regt., Command Sgt. Maj. Pearl Reeder-Hensley, Regt. Support Sqdn., 11th Armored Cav. Regt. command sergeant major, Sgt. 1st Class Katyuscka Cook, medic platoon sergeant with HHT, 1st Sqdn., 11th Armored Cav. Regt., Pvt. Ashley Pablo, a combat engineer with 58th Combat Engineer Company, 1st Sqdn., 11th Armored Cav. Regt., and Barbara Diaz, an education services specialist with the Fort Irwin education center.
When asked if they have felt the need to prove themselves being better than men in the workplace or felt the need to overcompensate, Ewing spoke first about her experience.
“I do not feel the need to prove that I am better than anyone in my unit except myself,” Ewing replied. “But I do often feel that I must be twice as good to be taken seriously.”
Reeder-Hensley said that at one point, she did feel the need to overcompensate.
“As a younger [noncommissioned officer] I think I fell into this, where I felt I had to overcompensate maybe because I think it was an ego in my head that I had to be better,” she said. “It was me that was challenging myself.”
As a military spouse, Diaz said she moves around a lot and started over in different careers, which previously made her feel like she had to prove herself.
“When you’re starting fresh, you always feel like you have to make a good impression and feel like you’re worthy to be there, and I think when I was younger I put way more pressure on myself to compete with others,” Diaz said. “Now that I’m older, I’m a lot more confident in my skills.”
The panel also answered questions about whether gender had a positive or negative effect on the cohesion of their units.
Cook recalled a previous unit where females first began integrating into combat roles.
“Most of the younger Soldiers at my rank and below at that time were pretty comfortable with having women in the unit,” Cook said.
Weyeneth said at a previous assignment where women integrated into combat units, a senior leader approached her and admitted he was concerned about working alongside women because he had never done so before in that capacity and he and other males feared they would say or do something wrong.
“The only thing I could tell him at the time was, ‘sir, as long as you don’t do anything immoral, illegal or unethical, you should be fine,’” she recalled.
Weyeneth said that conversation stood out to her.
“Not only do we [women] sometimes feel terrified in different environments like that, but the males can too, and there’s always room for information, growth and things like this [panel] that help dispel any kind of fears,” she said.
The moderator asked the panel their thoughts on how to encourage women into combat or specialized roles.
“Women will come into combat arms, discover that they can do it [and] discover that they are up to the challenges,” Ewing said. “We just need to give it time.”
Pablo admitted she had second thoughts about joining a combat arms job, but explained it was a boundary she had to cross.
“I think it’s just that boundary that we’ve got to let go of insecurities and fear that we can’t do something,” Pablo said. “We’ve just got to let it go and just go for it.”
Cook encouraged female Soldiers to consider the opportunities.
“When I joined the Army back in the mid-1990s, we were limited to what we could do,” Cook said. “Nowadays, you have so many opportunities … take advantage of it.”
When asked what they would like to say to male Solders about women’s equality in the military, Weyeneth shared her thoughts.
“Just treat everyone with dignity and respect and try to include everyone in what you’re doing and just taking that forward so we can make the successful strides we’re making,” Weyeneth said.