Today, Women’s Equality Day, marks the 100th Anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Each year on August 26th, we observe this ground breaking change to the U.S. Constitution which guarantees women the right to vote. This date is an opportunity to recognize women’s achievements and honor the incredible women who have fought for and continue to fight for equality.
The Army’s first active black woman to achieve the rank of major general was retired Lt. Gen. Nadja West, an Army Medicine officer. West served as the 44th Army Surgeon General from 2015 to 2019.
Today, Maj. Gen. Telita Crosland, a black woman, serves as the Deputy Army Surgeon General, the Deputy Commanding General of Operations for the U.S. Army Medical Command, and the Chief of the Army Medical Corps.
Crosland, hails from Queens and joined the Army in 1985. She said, “I never went into a room thinking that I wasn’t supposed to be there, as a woman, or as a black person. I don’t live in comparisons, or gender, or race.”
Crosland’s parents are from South Carolina. Her parents valued education and instilled high expectations in her and her siblings. Along with giving their children unconditional love, her parents constantly taught them that they have the ability to pursue their dreams.
“My parents always said, nothing beats a failure, but a try. They also taught us not to describe our shortcomings in the frame of someone else and that was very powerful for me,” said Crosland. “This was the accountability piece that is so important. They taught us that we are accountable for our own behaviors and for what we bring into any situation. I am not responsible for how other people behave,” she said.
“I hold people accountable for their behaviors”, said Crosland. “I’ve learned that when you hold people accountable, they do better or they realize that they cannot treat you that way anymore.”
She went on to say, that it is just not beneficial and it is not a good use of time and energy to focus on how other people may think about her as a woman or as a black woman.
“I don’t pick up other people’s rocks, she said. And I don’t carry other people’s ruck sacks. I think a better use of my energy is to live positively. To be a good person. Those things are not specific to my gender, nor my race,” she said.
Crosland pointed out that we are able to celebrate Women’s Equality Day because of the women who came before us. Those first responders—so to speak—set the conditions and environment for others to follow in their footsteps. It is important for women of all backgrounds to be able to see others in positions they aspire to achieve. These role models need to demonstrate the positive qualities and perspectives to continue the fight for equality.
“Women like retired Lt. Gen. West and many others, had a level of steel that I am not sure I have. If the people who go first don’t model well, then the others won’t be inspired to be a first. The higher I get, the greater my responsibility is to be a role model that others like me will aspire to,” said Crosland.
Crosland is thankful that throughout her career she had great mentors and role models of all races, both male and female. Based on her experiences, she remains committed to leader development and mentorship.
“Women’s Equality matters because we are human beings, regardless of our genders, race, and religion. We should be kind and caring to each other no matter what. Whenever we do this, we are better people, have a better society; our future is better. When women are included in the mix, we actually have a more stable society. Not too many of us don’t want that for the world,” Crosland said.