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    Shattering Stereotypes: California's Joint Women's Initiative Team

    Shattering Stereotypes California's Joint Women's Initiative Team

    Photo By Elizabeth Phillips | Leadership of the California Joint Women's Initiative, Air Force Maj. Maria Lipana and...... read more read more



    Story by Elizabeth Phillips 

    California National Guard Primary   

    Women have a rich and profound history in the military. They were allowed in the military during every war in particular supporting roles. However, they were pushed out after the war ceased. For generations, women couldn’t make military service their career.

    This bias has stopped women from progressing into leadership roles and serving as a profession.

    “I faced in my career tough moments where I thought I wasn’t going to be able to serve anymore,” said Air Force Maj. Maria Lipana, California Cybersecurity Integration Center California Office of Emergency Services. “It was because policies made it difficult for me with my children.”

    There was an Air Force policy to deny women professional military education if they were pregnant. Women could attend after they gave birth. This caused issues as PME is necessary for promotion, and if one doesn’t complete PME, one doesn’t get promoted. This put women at a considerable disadvantage to men.

    “Imagine having to leave such an intensive environment every couple of hours to pump,” explained Lipana. “There has been no one collecting this data in the last 22 years to inform leadership about the gray areas that eat away at people like exclusion.”

    This identified barrier was removed by the national Air Force Women’s Initiative Team.

    From the beginning, one of the barriers the working group identified was the lack of lactation rooms and changing tables.

    Lipana spoke about her experience of feeling excluded because of the lack of lactation rooms, describing how she had to pump in a computer closet after giving birth to her child. It left her to feel less important, less included, and less cared about.

    Lipana explained the military was built around men. During deployments, Air Force leadership sometimes raises concerns about sending women due to the additional costs associated with providing the necessary equipment for them to use the bathroom - a basic biological need.

    “The importance of what [women] do is inherent to the military,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Nicole Farnham, military personnel management officer. “We think differently. We operate differently. We have tools others don’t; and we have the grit that is needed in wartime. Women are a force multiplier.”

    “Women in war are the innate fabric of society,” said Lipana. “If you want communities to improve and evolve, the center of that is women.

    Created in 2022, after the national creation of the Women’s Initiative Team, the California Joint Women’s Initiative Team is leading the way in the California Military Department to create a more inclusive environment.

    JWIT is a narrative change, said Lipana. Women can do anything they set their minds to in the military and beyond. It was created because of the Adjutant General and the diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative named People First.

    “Diversity, equity, and inclusion is like oxygen: without it, nothing survives,” implored Farnham. “DEI is emboldened and emblazoned on every battlefield we will ever face.”

    JWIT is not comprised of solely women but a larger, more diverse group. With membership spanning male, female, and non-binary, their diversity reflects the CMD with every racial and ethnic identity in the ranks. Everyone is invited to the table to make the Armed Forces stronger and more potent.

    “The strength of our forces is not the size of our arsenal or the might of our equipment, but rather the diversity, tenacity, and unwavering resolve of our troops,” said Army Brig. Gen. Robert F. Paoletti, CMD director of Joint Staff. “Women enrich and exemplify the fabric of the California Military Department, showcasing the unwavering dedication that every service member must embrace. Women are not just important to the military; they are vital."

    In response to these changes, the DoD began surveying women to determine why they are leaving the service. In the DoD’s 2019 study of Guard and Reserve members, of those harassed or discriminated against, 41% weren’t likely to stay in the military, and 56% didn’t feel their unit was well prepared to perform their wartime mission.

    To identify these barriers, like exclusion and belonging, JWIT is putting out a survey to hear the voices of service members throughout the state of California on the impacts their gender has had on their service.

    “If we can’t reconcile these processes, we aren’t going to get it right in wartime and that will kill people,” implored Farnham. “These barriers can seem superficial, but they have exponential costs, and they limit women from doing their jobs. We need to have the best trained, capable force, and that force needs to be diverse. That is reliant on our understanding of DEI. If we don’t understand DEI, we will never understand the future of war.”



    Date Taken: 11.08.2023
    Date Posted: 12.07.2023 13:30
    Story ID: 459403
    Location: SACRAMENTO, CA, US
    Hometown: SACRAMENTO, CA, US

    Web Views: 41
    Downloads: 0