“Celebrating women’s history is not about how women compete with men, it’s about celebrating each other’s strengths, abilities and contributions.”
Those were the words of retired Army Lt. Gen. Patricia E. McQuistion, the keynote speaker for TACOM Life Cycle Management Command’s Women’s History Month observance March 22.
The former deputy commanding general for Army Materiel Command celebrated women but urged the audience in the auditorium to remember the things men and women have in common, and to keep striving and aspiring the ideals that define us as Americans.
Some of those ideals are in the U.S. Constitution and she said it is important that soldiers and Army civilian employees who support and defend that Constitution, understand what it means. She talked specifically about the 19th Amendment.
“It has only been 97 years since American women achieved the right to vote. That’s the turning point in the history of the struggle for equal treatment. It took 72 years of campaigning and meetings, and speeches, rallies and petitions and sometimes even jail by a huge civil rights movement for women. That’s three generations to get that passed. Talk about persistence.”
McQuistion, who now is on the staff of the Association of the United States Army, went on to say that although many trailblazing women have made progress, there is room for improvement.
“It’s always a little awkward when you talk about progress and you say, ‘Yay, we’ve come a long way,’ and then in the next breath we have to say, ‘There’s still more we have to do if we are to fulfill our full potential as individuals and teams, and as an Army and a nation.’ But it’s the truth. There’s a lot more we can and must do because it’s also the truth that women in this country and around the world do not have equal rights or equal bounds. Even the United Nations has declared that no society – no society,” she emphasized, “treats its women as well as men. It’s a sobering statement.”
Although women aren’t treated equally, they are better than men at some things, she said. Some of the studies she cited said that women:
- Learn better and tend to be more attentive, more flexible and more organized
- Are smarter than men
- Graduate from college at a higher rate than men
- Are better at handling interviews because they prepare more
- Are better managers because they listen better, provide mentorship, and are problem solvers and multi-taskers
- Take a longer-term investment view, resulting in higher earnings
- Live longer and are healthier
McQuistion recapped that list as laughter among the crowd grew louder: “Smarter, better educated, good workers and bosses, healthier, longer lived. Hmm, those are not bad categories to be in the lead on.”
In closing, the general said, “We should celebrate and expand on the progress of those who blazed the trails for us – a great effort that reaches younger generations before they get to the workforce. Thank a woman for being here today. Take advantage of what our predecessors – men and women, heroes and ‘she-roes’ – fought so long and so hard to give us. Let’s keep recognizing contributions of all individuals and all teams that keep us the greatest nation on earth.”
Following her keynote address, McQuistion joined three other women from industry on a panel to answer questions. Marion Whicker, acting executive director of the TACOM Integrated Logistics Support Center, was the moderator.
Panelist Chandra S. Lewis, co-founder and CEO of a public relations marketing firm in Detroit, said she has two key things that help her manage the Allen Lewis Agency.
“I have no work-life balance, as professed by the 1:30 and 2 a.m. emails that my colleagues often get from me,” she admitted. “But I will say in my attempt to balance, two things come to mind: prayer and preparedness. I was a Girl Scout but I never knew how (‘be prepared’) would continue to serve me every day. Every day.”
A single parent, Lewis said, “Fifty percent of women participate in the labor force, and 70 percent of women with children under 18 participate in the labor force. How can they do that? Prayer and preparedness. I would absolutely say that that’s the way that that is achieved,” she said to audience laughter.
Monica L. Martinez is senior vice president for external affairs and the national director of Hispanic business development for Comerica Bank. Whicker asked her what she would like to tweak about herself.
“Self-awareness is very important for all of us to have,” she said. “Sometimes we have non-realistic ideals of who we are and it takes other people to have that courage to tell you, ‘Hey, you think you’re pretty good at this but you could probably tweak it.’
“I really think of my life as an athlete would in that you’re preparing for a track meet, you’re preparing to have a better time on your run. So for me it really is that idea of success equals where you have the combination of preparation meets opportunity. Every time that I’m improving on something I am being prepared for that next thing that when the timing is right I’ll have, hopefully, a seat at the table.”
Martinez went on to describe a job opening at her workplace for which she had all the qualifications but wasn’t being considered. She was at an event when she saw someone who could have a direct influence on her future and approached him. “It’s understanding and knowing how things work,” she said, “and you get that from being prepared. I sat next to him and we had a great conversation,” she said. Three days later, she had the job.
“So when you ask me what I’m working on, being prepared is my key thing. I’m constantly striving to see what the next thing is and taking notes each time to see how I can improve.”
Diane Renaud, executive director and chief executive officer of St. Vincent and Sarah Fisher Center in Detroit was another panelist. She was asked to discuss a pivotal moment in her career.
She talked about being recruited several years ago for a six-month position at the center, which was about to lose funding to continue as a residential and foster care agency for children. Having learned the background of the agency and seeing its potential to continue community service after 170 years, she talked the hiring authorities into meeting all of her salary and benefits terms along with up to two years to turn the organization around. She brought them from caring for 250 students a year at one location to serving 1,200 students across five locations in Detroit today.
Renaud said the pivotal moment, when she surprised even herself, was standing up to them at the interview and saying, “I see what you don’t see. Get out of my way. And they went, ‘Oh, OK.’”
The Women’s History Month observance was part of the TACOM Human Capital directorate’s speaker series. April’s observance, Holocaust Days of Remembrance, will feature Martin Lowenberg, a survivor of Nazi concentration camps and other atrocities from 1933-1945.