News>Commentary - Shattering stereotypes at the heart of change
Capt. Nicole Jansen, 34th Bomb Squadron B-1 pilot, speaks about her career during the Women of Aviation event at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum in Box Elder, S.D., March 9, 2013. Jansen recounted her aspirations to become a pilot, and how a book about the U.S. Air Force Academy given to her by a ninth-grade teacher fueled her desire to attend to the academy and become an Air Force pilot. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Anania Tekurio/Released)
Master Sgt. Koleen Riggs, 432nd Attack Squadron sensor operator, speaks about her career during the Women of Aviation event at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum in Box Elder, S.D., March 9, 2013. Riggs has been an MQ-9 Reaper sensor operator for the last two and one half years, where she employs airborne to actively or passively acquire, track and monitor airborne, maritime and ground objects. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Anania Tekurio/Released)
Commentary by Airman 1st Class Kate Maurer
28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
3/11/2013 - ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- "I was told I'm pretty, or I'll make a good mother...but that's not enough for me. I want to be told I'm smart and I can achieve my goals."
This sentiment, provided by Kelly Dominguez, 28th Bomb Wing sexual assault response coordinator, is shared by countless women around the world, and one that captures the struggles many face.
Recognizing struggles like this, as well as the contributions that women have made throughout history, underscores the purpose of National Women's History Month.
America has been celebrating the contributions women have made each March when the first International Women's Day was declared, March 8, 1911.
"National Women's History Month is a time set aside to emphasize the accomplishments of women throughout history," said Capt. Nicole Jansen, 34th Bomb Squadron B-1 pilot. "And what women are doing today is opening doors for a new generation."
Jansen added that women have come a long way and overcome numerous obstacles over time. While she has faced various challenges throughout her life, she emphasized the fact that she is a woman has not been an issue in her current squadron.
"As a female combat pilot, I'm a minority in my squadron, but I don't feel discriminated against," Jansen said. "I just feel like another member of the squadron."
Today, being a stay-at-home wife or mother is a choice, and women have recently gained access to military combat careers. Choices like these were not always the case.
Dominguez explained how her father passed away when she was young, leaving her mother with important decisions to make.
"My mom went from being a military spouse and following my dad around to being head of the household," Dominguez said. "She went to college and became empowered. It wasn't a situation she chose, but it showed my sister and me we can do anything we set our minds to."
Dominguez added that a challenge she faces as women is her self confidence in overcoming peoples' prejudices.
Fay Ludens, 28th BW deputy Inspector General, served in the military for 22 years and expressed her excitement at the growing opportunities for women today, both as civilians and military members.
"When I was in the military 30 years ago, the majority of the role models were males because there weren't a lot of women serving in high positions," said Ludens. "I felt obligated to work harder and prove I could do the same things males were doing. It's good to have women role models in higher positions - it inspires the rest of us."
Women are now in various professions that were considered "unwomanly" years ago. Although major feats are becoming rare due to increasing equality, most agree there are many ways to make a difference in the life of a young woman.
"The women in my family have been the most inspiring to me," said Senior Master Sgt. Debra Sampson, 28th Maintenance Squadron first sergeant. "Even my grandmother, who grew up in a much different time, taught the rest of us girls to be strong, skilled, independent women."
Gender discrimination is still present in today's society, but women have strived to surpass stereotypes and excel in their pursuit of equality. Dominguez said she's glad that women today don't have to second guess if they can go to college, have a good job or a career.
"I'm thankful for the women who made that possible, and I'm excited for the future," Dominguez said.
Throughout the month, I encourage everyone to take the time to reflect upon the women who have inspired them and to recognize all that they've overcome in their lives.