By Chelsea Bissell, U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria Public Affairs April 1, 2014
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- This year, to honor Women's History Month, U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria looked to the future.
The garrison hosted the "Empowering Young Women to Lead" program, March 28. A panel of distinguished women in politics, the military and even brewing, answered questions and offered advice to young professionals.
"The idea was to provide young women with incentives and strategies to better plan their careers and family lives and to actively seek to assume leadership positions," said Susanne Bartsch, USAG Bavaria community relations officer.
Prior to a question-and-answer session from the panel, Emilia Mueller, the Bavarian state minister for labor, social affairs, family and integration, addressed nearly 300 community members who gathered in the Tower Barracks Physical Fitness Center.
Mueller, who began her career as a chemical technician, entered politics in 1984 as a member of the Frauen-Union, a women's organization within the Christian Social Union political party.
She quickly ascended the political ladder, serving as a member of the European Parliament and as the first female Bavarian state minister for economic affairs before nabbing her current position as minister of labor and social affairs.
In her address, Mueller drew on her experience in a male-dominated field and called to end the pigeonholing of men and women into traditionally male and female jobs.
"We all know that girls are just as gifted in math and natural sciences as boys. And boys are just as gifted in language and working with children as girls," said Mueller.
She implored women to step up to responsibility in the workplace and to push aside self-doubt in favor of tenacity.
"We women must become more confident and courageous," said Mueller. "Far too many women turned down opportunities due to modesty and leave their field up to men."
Following the state minister's speech, audience members sought advice from a panel on ways to surmount social obstacles, stand up to detractors and foster mentorships.
The speakers echoed Mueller and cited fear and lack of self-confidence as a reason why women can fail to live up to their abilities.
Kathy Aydt, USAG Bavaria deputy commander, implored women to keep pushing forward.
"We tell ourselves that we're not ready for the next step. We take ourselves out," she said. "We have to start believing in ourselves. Moreover, we have to start taking opportunities."
Lt. Col. Tara Hall, commander, Tower Barracks Health Clinic, warned against confusing femininity with weakness and an inability to lead.
"I think we need to be authentic as women and understand that we can be leaders and women," she said. "And that's important for those coming up behind us, that they can see we're not shedding ourselves to be leaders."
The panel members encouraged young women to find mentors, male or female, who can help guide them toward their professional goals.
"I've had a lot of positive male role models," said Sgt. Maj. Carolina Johnson, equal opportunity chief, U.S. Army Africa Command Vicenza.
However, explained Johnson, the women that came through the military before her helped pave the way for her own success.
"Most of the glass ceilings I've seen already have cracks in them," she said. "Some female has already been there."