Women’s Equality Day panel at Picatinny offers advice, career perspectives from six women

By Eric KowalSeptember 1, 2023

From left - Theresa A. Smith, Deputy Joint Program Executive Officer Armaments and Ammunition, Mary Manser, former Director of Financial Management for the U.S. Army Armaments Research, Development and Engineering Center, Col. Deanna M. Ojeda, Commander, Defense Contract Management Agency Springfield, Pamela Ferlazzo, Assistant Provost Self-Assessment Manager, Armament Graduate School, Aisha Haynes, Senior Scientific Technical Manager for Materials Producibility Engineering Analysis and Prototyping, and Cindy Perazzo, Executive Director, Weapon and Software Engineering Center, U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Armaments Center
From left - Theresa A. Smith, Deputy Joint Program Executive Officer Armaments and Ammunition, Mary Manser, former Director of Financial Management for the U.S. Army Armaments Research, Development and Engineering Center, Col. Deanna M. Ojeda, Commander, Defense Contract Management Agency Springfield, Pamela Ferlazzo, Assistant Provost Self-Assessment Manager, Armament Graduate School, Aisha Haynes, Senior Scientific Technical Manager for Materials Producibility Engineering Analysis and Prototyping, and Cindy Perazzo, Executive Director, Weapon and Software Engineering Center, U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Armaments Center (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Todd Mozes) VIEW ORIGINAL

PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - A panel of six women with a wide breadth of experience and knowledge in various U.S. Army career fields spoke to friends and co-workers as part of Picatinny Arsenal’s Women’s Equality Day observance on Aug. 30.

The event, held in the Lindner Conference Center, featured prominent women in the Picatinny workforce, both past and present, including two Senior Executive Service (SES) members and an active-duty Army colonel.

Cindy Perazzo, Executive Director, Weapon and Software Engineering Center, U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Armaments Center, and Theresa A. Smith, Deputy Joint Program Executive Officer Armaments and Ammunition represented the SES corps.

The Armaments Center was also represented by Aisha Haynes, Senior Scientific Technical Manager for Materials Producibility Engineering Analysis and Prototyping, and Pamela Ferlazzo, Assistant Provost Self-Assessment Manager, Armament Graduate School. They were also joined by Mary Manser, now retired and formerly Director of Financial Management for the U.S. Army Armaments Research, Development and Engineering Center, which several years ago became the Armaments Center.

Col. Deanna M. Ojeda, Commander, Defense Contract Management Agency Springfield, brought a uniformed servicewoman’s perspective to the forum, along with Smith, a U.S. Army Veteran with multiple deployments under her belt before moving into the civilian sector, and later selected for SES.

The women were presented with a series of questions that allowed for them to discuss obstacles and challenges in both their personal and professional lives. They also offered advice for the next generation of young female leaders and presented ideas on how they each believe the workplace can better support women, especially those with families, to advance in their careers while maintaining work-life balance.

“Don’t always look up, look to the side,” Perazzo said about career growth. Having more than 30 years of experience at Picatinny, Perazzo stated that job opportunities may not always come in the form of a promotion. But that there may be learning experiences in other offices or shops that may lead to future openings.

After the eight previously submitted questions had been answered by the panel, the audience in attendance, and those watching virtually, had the opportunity to query the women on the panel.

A moment of self-reflection came across the faces of each of the six women as they were asked to talk about something they had to sacrifice to get to where they are, both their personal and professional lives.

Struggling to hold back tears in response, Col. Ojeda was not hesitant with her response.

“Time,” she said.

“You can’t get time back. You learn to appreciate time.”

The colonel described a recent career choice she made that meant being temporarily separated from her family.

“You learn to appreciate every moment you have and make every moment count,” she said.

Women have only been able to serve in military uniform alongside their male counterparts for the past 75 years. Congress granted women the right to “serve as permanent, regular members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force” under the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act in 1948. On Jan. 24, 2013, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta removed the military’s ban on women serving in combat.

According to the Department of Defense, in 2021 more than 1.3 million active-duty members serve in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Space Force. Of that 1.3 million, about 17.3percent of active-duty members are female; compared to five years prior when it was only 16.5 percent.

“We’ve had the privilege of hearing from a diverse group of women and accomplished leaders who have shattered glass ceilings, overcome obstacles, and championed the campaign of gender equality” said Lt. Col. Alexander D. Burgos, Picatinny Arsenal garrison commander said in closing remarks. “Your stories, perspectives, and experiences will not only inspire others, but will also deepen our understanding of the challenges and triumphs faced by women in various walks of life.”

In 1973, the U.S. Congress designated August 26 as “Women’s Equality Day.” The date was selected to commemorate the 1920 certification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote.

That right was the culmination of a massive, peaceful civil rights movement by women that had its formal beginnings in 1848 at the world’s first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. The observance of Women’s Equality Day not only commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment, but also calls attention to women’s continuing efforts towards full equality. Workplaces, libraries, organizations, and public facilities now participate with Women’s Equality Day programs, displays, video showings, and other activities.

The Aug. 30 panel at Picatinny was put together by the garrison’s Plans, Analysis, and Integration Office, in coordination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Office.