Women can have it all, but first YOU need to figure out what “IT” is that you want! Just remember, allow your goals to change over time. You will change and your priorities and ambitions will change and sometimes plans don’t always work out as we intend. Being flexible will help you stay on track and understand that sometimes, you are going to fail. Failure is a part of growth. It allows you to learn from your mistakes and makes you stronger as you face difficult challenges.
What we need to understand as women is that there will be many obstacles to achieving your goals. Our reality is that we are in a male-dominated world, but I believe women will rise as we continue to reveal our value. So often, women leave the workforce because of the difficulty with balancing personal and professional lives. Being in the corner office, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps or Female Infantry Officer may not be for everyone.
No matter what you decide, there is no right or wrong answer and I certainly don’t have all the answers. Serving in the military taught me a number of skills that have been essential to my success since I reentered the civilian world — and contain valuable lessons for other women. In order to be successful in whatever you decide, below are a few tips that I would like to share with you that have helped me.
Women tend to look at things differently than men and often we second-guess ourselves. We don’t give credit to ourselves when credit is due. You deserve your success. Create ownership of success and understand your own success. Believe in yourself!
Don’t just talk about it, be about it!
Your ideas and concepts are valuable. Speak up. Sometimes you will have good ideas and other times you will not. Keep your hand up! You will never know what opportunities can come to you if you do not get out of your comfort zone.
Create a level playing field.
Juggling home and work is difficult. Choose a partner who will support your ambitions and will do their part with the kids. Often women are the ones sacrificing for their partner. Making equal contributions is key to a successful relationship, family life and career.
Develop emotional intelligence
We probably all know people, either at work or in our personal lives, who are really good listeners. No matter what kind of situation we’re in, they always seem to know just what to say – and how to say it – so that we’re not offended or upset. They’re caring and considerate, and even if we don’t find a solution to our problem, we usually leave feeling more hopeful and optimistic.
We probably also know people who are masters at managing their emotions. They don’t get angry in stressful situations. Instead, they have the ability to look at a problem and calmly find a solution. They’re excellent decision makers, and they know when to trust their intuition. Regardless of their strengths, however, they’re usually willing to look at themselves honestly. They take criticism well, and they know when to use it to improve their performance.
People like this have a high degree of emotional intelligence, or EI. They know themselves very well, and they’re also able to sense the emotional needs of others.
As this journey continues, I am looking forward to sharing my obstacles and experiences with you to assist with your growth and opportunity!
You can reach Jenna at: Lady Leatherneck and Twitter: @jenna_lombardo1
NOTE: Jenna Lombardo wrote this to her sisters in the military. However, her advice is solid for men and women in all work environments:
So often, the military small unit leadership has turned a blind eye to sexual harassment and sexual assaults. It is only until recently that action is being taken due to the high-ranking incidents that have occurred. Each branch of service has come out with its own method of prevention training.
In my opinion, this training is senseless if the leaders who instruct these courses and the students within do not have respect for their female counterparts to begin with. Prevention needs to start with women who stand up for themselves and chose to start a ripple effect. One in three women experiences sexual assault during their military career and very rarely are these incidents dealt with.
I am not suggesting that every experience that you encounter should be dealt with by complaining to your chain of command, but as women, we need to put an end to the behavior of men who attempt to take advantage of women and create a foundation for young ladies who come into the military force after us.
Women are not fragile or submissive; it is time we stand up for ourselves and for our sisters in arms.
(1) Talk to the person directly
When the initial sexual harassment incident takes place, ask the person harassing you to stop. If your harasser continues displaying the same behavior, inform your harasser that you plan to file a report if the behavior continues. Some people discontinue their behavior once you threaten to report them. If the harasser fails to stop, you can take further action.
Particularly, when I have been firm and obviously not interested in their behavior, it deters them from saying or making any gestures toward me.
(2) Find other victims and witnesses
Search for other victims of sexual harassment by your harasser. You may find that some other victims have filed complaints in the past. Secure the testimony of any witnesses of your incidents in writing. This helps support your claim.
This was particularly helpful for me when I first entered the Marine Corps. I had encountered an instructor in my MOS school who was harassing other young women (E-1/E-2). This instructor made his way to me and said some VERY inappropriate things to me and then began to stalk me. It felt wrong, but I was naïve. I spoke to other women who felt the same and I was the ONE who spoke up and in the end, he was held accountable and eventually court martialed and kicked out.
(3) Inform Your Supervisor
If talking to your harasser did not stop the harassing behavior, report all incidents to your immediate supervisor. Ask your supervisor for a meeting to explain the situation in person.
The reality is that sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. However, do not give up. If your immediate supervisor overlooks it, than that is a leadership failure. Stand your ground and make sure that you are not mistreated in that manner again.
YOU ARE VALUABLE. Don’t let anyone make you think or feel that your intuition is wrong.
Talk about “leaning in”. Imagine doing two combat tours in Iraq, being promoted because of “meritorious combat service”, being nominated three times as “Enlisted Woman of the Year” and then facing sexual harassment from a senior enlisted adviser.
I encountered Jenna Lombardo through her story posted on Sheryl Sandberg’s LEAN IN site.
Given the current details of increased sexual harassment and assaults on women within the military, I wanted to find out more about this amazing woman.
Over coffee at a local Pain du Monde, this gorgeous woman spoke about how she realized there were few other women she could turn to for advice and support.
Today, as a former Marine, mother, a Marine wife, student and philanthropist her response has been to create a support group called Lady Leatherneck. Through Lady Leatherneck, her goal is to bring a community of military women together through shared experiences, to counsel, and to mentor and inspire one another.
In my next blog, I have asked Jenna for advice on how to handle sexual harassment.