By Jack ChavezAugust 29, 2019
The only measure that should decide whether someone gets a job is whether they can do the work.
That was the message from the panel of the 704th Military Intelligence Brigade's "Women's Equality: Celebrating Women's Right to Vote" panel discussion on Aug. 22 at Club Meade.
The observance commemorated the 99th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which took place Aug. 18, 1920.
An estimated 200 people attended the 90-minute event, which was preceded by a food sampling.
The three-member panel was moderated by Col. Heidi Urben of the 704th MI. Panelists included retired Chief Master Sgt. Arlene Murray, Command Sgt. Maj. Sheryl Lyon of U.S. Army Cyber Command and Jenna Seidel, chief of Data Orchestration Services in Collect, Exploitation and Cryptanalysis Operations in the Directorate of Operations for the National Security Agency.
"We tried to make sure we selected folks who had a diversity of career experiences, that we weren't limited to one branch of the military, and that we had a good military and civilian balance," Urben said of the panel selection process.
"That was the going-in, but then we really wanted to pick people who were trailblazers in their fields. Women who served might have been the first to occupy a position, so they could share their personal experiences, how they got there and where they are today."
Topics included support for equality from men, advice for young women entering the military, addressing the wage gap and continuing the fight for equality.
Lyon said the importance of Women's Equality Day is in what it represents.
"It represents equality as a whole and for all," said Lyon.
"So when people ask me if women's equality is where it needs to be or should be, I tell them no. Because it's more than just women and the right to vote. It's equality for everything -- equal pay, equal job opportunities. That's truly women's equality."
Lyon said there is a lot more work to do to truly achieve equality. Equal pay and employment opportunities are still battles being waged. Though she has been afforded opportunities, those opportunities are not always forthcoming, she said.
For a historical biography years ago, Lyon was asked what she wanted her legacy in the Army to stand for.
"First thing I said was the ability of people to be afforded an opportunity based simply on their capability, not their gender, age, sexual preference or anything else -- simply their capability to do the job."
After the discussion, Sgt. Maj. Dianette Oyola-Morales of Army Cyber Command said she appreciated the diversity of the panel and the perspectives brought by the panelists.
"We should celebrate every day, not every year," Oyola-Morales said. "We should all celebrate -- not just females, but everybody. Every day you do something incredible. This is good because it allows you to remember something, the historical aspect of it. I do believe we should celebrate every day."
Ultimately, the significance of events such as Women's Equality Day for the military is to demonstrate how far it has come in opening its doors to people of all backgrounds, judging their worth solely on merit.
"We want to continue to encourage young women to join the military," Urben said after the event. "We want to show that it is truly an equal opportunity organization. No matter what your gender, race or ethnicity is, your performance is what matters most.
"It's helpful to see women as exemplars who have excelled in each of the services of our military. That serves as an inspiration to young women who are just joining the military today.
"It also reminds everybody that there is no limit to what can be accomplished. We need these observances to truly remind us how far we've come as a society and military, and reflect on what still has yet to be achieved."