Women's History Month focuses on 'character, courage and commitment'
April 8, 2014
WIESBADEN, Germany - Life has taken Laura Jankowich much farther than she ever imagined. And despite it sometimes being a "constant juggle," she wouldn't change a thing.
Testifying of occasions in her career that demanded character, courage, and commitment -- the essence of the Women's History Month theme -- the U.S. Army Europe deputy G8 shared some of life's lessons with those at the community observance event at the Tony Bass Fitness Center March 26.
According to the "southern girl" from Mississippi, deciding to move to Germany for her career as a single mother took great courage. She said her plan for life 20 years ago was to stick close to home, nearer to her grandmother; the person who most impacted her character most.
Jankovich pulled no punches with the crowd as she shared various points from her career of amusement, conflict, challenge, discomfort and accomplishment.
"You never know who's standing behind you and sometimes you're going to be judged," she said. "I want people to know I'm just as equally capable as someone of the other sex."
She entered federal service in 1999 as an auditor at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Along the way she became a certified public accountant and certified internal auditor. And the path of her career is where she learned a number of things about herself while working with others.
"I have dealt with gender and age discrimination ... mostly from other women," she said, sharing an account where female coworkers lodged concerns with the supervisor to ban a 20-something Jankovich from wearing a two-piece to an office outing.
Another moment that tested her character was when she was confronted by a "fairly senior male colonel" who doubted her knowledge and proficiency because of how young she looked.
"Being underestimated is probably one of our best strengths," said Jankovich, who said despite being offended at the colonel's disrespectful and rude comments, she maintained professional bearing and her commitment to duty. "He apologized to me in front of my team and said 'you proved me wrong.' I was committed to doing my job well, regardless of what he thought of me."
In 22 years she said there are many things that have improved in the workplace, and encouraged everyone present to "embrace the change -- it's what gave women the opportunity we have today."
The program, "Celebrating Women of Character, Courage and Commitment" also included honorary tributes -- recitations performed by community members -- to historic women. Mackenzie Riley read her winning essay, and Col. Kenneth Rector, 66th Military Intelligence Brigade commander, gave final remarks.