Women leaders share career journey advice

By Marian Accardi, U.S. Army Garrison Redstone Public AffairsAugust 30, 2023

Marion Whicker, executive deputy to the commanding general at Army Materiel Command talks about her career path Thursday during a panel discussion at the Women’s Equality Day Celebration.
1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Marion Whicker, executive deputy to the commanding general at Army Materiel Command talks about her career path Thursday during a panel discussion at the Women’s Equality Day Celebration. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Stinson) VIEW ORIGINAL
 Brig. Gen. Daphne Davis, commander of the Army Recruiting Command, talks with attendees prior to the Women’s Equality Day celebration Thursday.
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Brig. Gen. Daphne Davis, commander of the Army Recruiting Command, talks with attendees prior to the Women’s Equality Day celebration Thursday. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Stinson) VIEW ORIGINAL
Kris McBride, a former defense industry corporate executive and the new Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army for North Alabama, speaks with Lt. Col. Jeff Mennicke, deputy commander of the 2nd Recruiting Brigade.
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Kris McBride, a former defense industry corporate executive and the new Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army for North Alabama, speaks with Lt. Col. Jeff Mennicke, deputy commander of the 2nd Recruiting Brigade. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Stinson) VIEW ORIGINAL

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Three female leaders who each support the military in different roles shared their career journeys and the importance of mentors Thursday at the Team Redstone Women’s Equality Day celebration.

“What you see before you is support to the military three different ways,” Marion Whicker, executive deputy to the commanding general at Army Materiel Command, said. “There’s more than one way to support the military. Every day, we’re recruiters for the military,” said Whicker, who has nearly 39 years of Army civilian experience.

The 2nd Recruiting Brigade, in coordination with AMC, hosted the event at the University of Alabama in Huntsville Student Services Center, which featured a panel discussion and reception.

Whicker was joined on the panel by Brig. Gen. Daphne Davis, commander of the Army Recruiting Command; and Kris McBride, a former defense industry corporate executive who is the new Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army for North Alabama.

Whicker, who’s from Detroit, said she didn’t plan to have an Army career after college and figured she would work in the automotive industry like her nine siblings and father. But she spotted a newspaper employment ad for the Tank-automotive and Armaments Command.

“I thought I’d work there for about three years and then go work for the auto company,” she said. “I can tell you this, 39 years later, I never looked back. I never applied for a position outside of the military, outside of the Army, because I had found my calling.”

Whicker, who started as an intern, worked in supply chain management, program management and resource management. She served with Operation Warp Speed, a federal effort that supported multiple COVID-19 vaccine candidates to speed up development, before coming to Redstone. She’s now a Tier III member of the Senior Executive Service, the equivalent to a three-star general officer.

“Gender played no role in this,” she said. “It was my abilities and things I was able to do.” Her response when she’s asked about the “secret sauce” to her career: work hard, take the jobs nobody else wants, and be authentic.

She recommends that women look for multiple mentors.

“Find people you can talk to about the things that you want to do,” she said. “Mentors will come in all shapes and sizes, genders, experience. Don’t limit yourself.”

McBride joined Intergraph after college and went on to work at a large defense firm, a small business as its president and at SAIC, where she was part of a management team on one of the company’s largest projects.

After retirement, McBride joined the Procurement Technical Assistance Center at UAH as a senior business counselor, teaching entrepreneurs about government contracting.

She is the first female to hold the North Alabama CASA position. In this role, with the status equivalent of a three-star general, she serves as an adviser to Army senior leaders and a conduit to the community.

“A big mistake of mine was that I did not seek a lot of mentors early in my career, and I really regret that,” she said. Her advice: “Pick your mentors based on what you want to know, no matter whether they’re a man or a woman. If you don’t do that, I think you’ll be at a disadvantage.”

She also urged women to make sure to support other women. “We need each other.”

Davis, who has held command and staff positions in the active Army and Army Reserve, now oversees recruiting operations across the United States, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and U.S. facilities in Germany and Asia.

“I really wish I could say I joined out of patriotic conviction,” said Davis, whose father served in the military for 24 years. “But I went off to college and I needed money.” She ended up joining ROTC.

“Quite honestly, I stayed in the military for greater than 30 years because of the professional and personal opportunities that I’ve had to grow and develop in the Army.” And she became closer to some of the members of her “Army family” than her own relatives.

“How did I get here? Mentors. Mentors are key and critical to getting here along the way,” she said. “A lot of sacrifices, lot of tears, lot of opportunities, lot of achievements, and a lot of accomplishments along the way. I would implore any woman to explore whatever options are available and don’t set yourself off from those options.”

Davis referred to a 2012 report from Credit Suisse Research Institute, showing that companies with at least one woman on the board outperformed in share price performance those with no women on their board over the previous six years. The report, which analyzed the performance of nearly 2,400 companies, noted that those with at least one woman on the board also exhibited higher return on equity and higher valuations.

“So, I say to you that we are critical,” she said. “The data is there, the studies have been shown that if women are leaders in our organizations, we make our organizations better, thereby we can make our country a better place to be for not only us today but for the youth of tomorrow.”