Last week I attended/covered/sponsored the annual Chamber of Commerce Ladies of Legacy Luncheon. As usual, it was quite a line-up with four panelists and the moderator, topped by the Mayor of Miami-Dade County (first female). The Mayor of course could only stay for a short time and spoke about her “journey into leadership” before the moderator posed questions to the panelists. They represented a mix of profit, non-profit, and government.
Not surprisingly, in listening to them, another memory was stirred about my days of “being the first female to…..” As I have posted before, while I held seven such positions over the course of my career, the first most significant from a “ground-breaking one” was at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. That’s because it was a huge installation with a long history and therefore, when I took command of the large maintenance company (right around 300 personnel), it gained a lot of attention. We would also periodically be visited by different general officers, who were almost always unaccustomed to a female being in this position. Not to say they disagreed with it; merely it was a surprise. One time, it was a three-star general I think and during the course of discussion he asked something like, “How long did it take your people to accept you as the commander?” Now, based on his tone and body language, I understood he was actually curious; not trying to put me down. I said something along the lines of, “Not long, sir, everyone got used to it pretty quickly.” We went on through the tour and about an hour after I returned to my office, the Colonel (who was the rank about my direct boss, the Lieutenant Colonel) called me personally to make sure I wasn’t disturbed by the General’s question. I knew the Colonel had been supportive of my selection from the beginning and I assured him everything was fine. It was, however, another interesting moment of “affirmation”.