Tripler Army Medical Center — In honor of Women’s Equality Day, Tripler Army Medical Center’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility committee led a discussion on women in the workforce at Kyser Auditorium on Aug. 23, 2023.
The panel discussion included Command Sgt. Maj. Amanda N. Miller, TAMC Troop Command; Col. Miko Watkins, TAMC Chief of Nursing Administration; and Alicia Shoulta, the Chief of Human Resources and Manpower for Defense Health Agency Region Indo-Pacific; and Star Dahl-Thurston, Miss Hawaii 2023.
The two-long-hour discussion led to conversations on how to be assertive, reject or accept titles, advocacy of women by men, open dialogues, self-awareness, and sharing examples of positive experiences through mentorship.
Capt. Kelly Blake Ebrahimi served as the lead and moderator for the panel discussion. Ebrahimi opened the discussion by introducing an overview of the 19th Amendment, women’s right to vote, and the championing of the bill in the U.S. Congress to designate Aug. 26 as Women’s Equality Day. Ebrahimi highlighted each panelist’s career history and service.
Shoulta started the discussion on how women can develop their leadership skills: “First, we need women to empower women. It’s important. In my life, I will see a woman down the street and say, “You look gorgeous. We need to be an advocate for other women. As for a leader, always enjoy a lifetime of learning.”
Miller spoke on the importance of leaving your comfort zone, reflection, and mentorship.
“Take courage and have the delivered focus to get after those things,“ Miller said. “I have had very key female leaders who have done amazing things who have built me up, supported me, and helped me navigate through my career.”
Dahl-Thurston offered her perspective of setting aside spaces for quick judgments: “When it comes to women, we are natural observers. We can create so much judgment of ourselves and other people. We need to clock in and listen to the inner dialogues. I’ve caught myself judging other women I might not identify with or misunderstand. I think we can bridge the gap between different types of women in different spaces.”
Watkins advised ways to acquire leadership skills are through academic resources, whether through education, classes, courses, and degrees.
“There are tons of resources out there,” Watkins said. “If you want to learn leadership skills, there are different avenues to do that stuff. There weren’t a lot of opportunities like that for me.”
Dahl-Thurston added: “Leadership is a skill. Many people believe it’s a personality trait or don’t believe they can be as great of a leader as someone else. But it is a developed skill.”
One guest from the audience asked the panel members for advice on how aging and perception have helped them change over time.
Miller said that because of how she was raised, she didn’t encounter significant gender discrimination early in life. When she did encounter it, it was surprising.
“As a child, I was oblivious to the effect that gender has on me,” Miller said. “My parents always told me I could be anything I wanted. They never put restrictions or boundaries on anything I could do. I have two younger brothers. I played sports. I am the one who helped my dad in the yard. I was pushed to go to college. When I joined the Army, they were supportive. When I encountered discrimination based on my gender, it was startling to me. It was unexpected.”
Shoulta expressed her frustrations of being told to smile more, and how men would parrot her high voice to her in a professional setting.
“It’s always jarring and frustrating,” Shoulta said. “Are you kidding me? Really, it’s 2023, and it’s still happening. Are we really doing this? Women need advocacy from men. We need men telling other men to say that’s not cool.”
Dahl-Thurston added: “Men should analyze their inner dialogues and judgments before making assumptions about why a woman smiles and dresses… We put these women in boxes, but they can exist outside of that box. They can smile, and still be a CEO.”
Watkins said that she spent much of her life facing racial discrimination rather than gender discrimination, and that as times have changed and she’s gotten older, she’s more likely to speak up.
“It wasn’t gender that affected me,” Watkins said. “It was my ethnicity and my race. I was targeted for other things, but I wasn’t targeted for being a girl. It was the way I looked. I grew up in New Hampshire … Thirty years ago, I laughed at those jokes. Sorry. It was funny, but it was wrong. Would I laugh now? No. Do I say something now? Yes, I’m not shy anymore. I’m glad times have changed, but we still have a lot of work to do.
TAMC DEIA committee Let’s Talk Series occurs monthly and offers a forum for discussion and education on various DEIA-related topics. The DEIA committee’s vision is to develop a culture of diversity and make deliberate efforts to understand each other for the community at TAMC.