By Michael Norris, Pentagram Assistant Editor March 22, 2013
Shelley Row, motivational speaker, author, engineer and former U.S. Department of Transportation executive, was the guest speaker at the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall observance of Women's History Month March 20 in the base community center. The event was sponsored by the base Equal Opportunity Office.
Row, addressing the theme "Women inspiring innovation through imagination: celebrating women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics," used the movie "The Wizard of Oz" as a touchstone to get her point across about the strides women have made throughout history and how far they still have to go.
"Women's History Month is a time to celebrate the contributions and to honor the sacrifices and accomplishments of women who not only shaped the Army but this nation as well," said JBM-HH Commander Col. Fern O. Sumpter in remarks before introducing the guest speaker.
Sumpter noted how March 3, 2013 marked the 100th anniversary of the women's suffrage parade in Washington, D.C., an event that captured public interest and brought "a badly needed infusion of vigor" to the movement that sought to gain American women the vote.
The theme of this year's Women's History Month, the commander said, recognizes "generations of women who throughout American history have used their intelligence, imagination, sense of wonder and tenacity to make extraordinary contributions to science, technology, engineering and the mathematics field."
The lights of the community center were dimmed to better see a slide show presentation as the guest speaker stood at the front of the auditorium's stage. The first slide was a still from "The Wizard of Oz," a film released in 1939, a time when women represented 24.3 percent of the U.S. workforce, Row said.
This information was punctuated with a snippet of song from the MGM classic. U.S. Army Band vocalist Sgt. 1st Class Holly Shockey, who sang the national anthem at the start of the program, lent her voice to "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," reinforcing Row's theme of women's yearning for greater participation in society.
Row cited other historical milestones in women's march toward equality in her presentation, including publication of the book "The Feminine Mystique," the establishment of the National Organization of Women and the Equal Rights Amendment.
"Women across the country were getting on the yellow brick road," Rowe said. "We thought if we worked hard and did a good job we could get to Oz." The speaker addressed workplace dynamics, describing the different ways men and women communicate, network or assert authority in an office setting. Boardrooms with more than one woman at the table perform 26 percent better financially than those with no women directors, Row said, explaining how women's greater participation also provides a tangible economic impact on society.
"Wouldn't you want to invest in a company that has a 26 percent higher yield?" she asked.
Row cited the scarecrow, tin man and lion's individual quest for brains, heart and courage in the "Wizard of Oz" as important qualities for women to bring to the workplace.
"The lion was looking for courage," Row said, intentionally stammering the "C" in courage like the character in the movie. "The thing is, he already had it."
When men apply for a job they typically wait until they've met 60 percent of a position's listed qualifications, Row said, adding that women don't usually apply until they've met all of a job's criteria. She urged women in the audience to take greater risk and apply for higher rung jobs earlier in their careers. Row cited how a prominent internet provider had been named the top company to work for in a recent survey of employees. "Sorry colonel, you'll get 'em next year," she joked in aside, glancing at Sumpter. Row said the reason for employee satisfaction at the company had to do with recently adopted policies, including a more flexible work schedule and maternity leave. She said the policy change helped the company reduce employee turnover and boost profits.
Balancing work and family obligations is of increasing importance to both men and women, Row said, calling the issue a "quality of life imperative." While young women today may no longer be told they can't grow up to be an engineer, she said, women still have a ways to go before becoming fully integrated into the workforce.
"We're not there yet. Now is not the time to fall asleep in a bed of poppies," Row said, making her final reference to "Oz."