USNA Women’s SIG Elections- VOTE NOW!

Elections have begun for the USNA Women’s Shared Interest Group (Women’s SIG)!

VOTE HERE or  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SIGElection

The Women’s SIG was created in 2017 with the mission of: 

  • providing a platform for alumnae, alumni, and interested members of the USNA community to address issues of particular concern to women; 
  • increasing and strengthening the presence and leadership of women within the Naval Academy, the Naval Service, and the communities within which we live and work; 
  • providing opportunities for alumnae mentoring and networking.

It is time for new leadership for the Women’s SIG to keep moving forward connecting our 2,300+ members with each other, to the Alumni Association, and to organizations affiliated with the Alumni Association.  By our presence and involvement, we want to enhance the culture, diversity, and inclusion of the Alumni Association.

Please take the time to vote for the elected positions:  President (3 year term), Vice President (3 year term), Secretary (2 year term), Treasurer (2 year term), and Outreach (2 year term).  There is also an opportunity to let us know if/where you would like to help on the leadership team. 

Elections close February 15, 2021 with new officers seated March 1, 2021.

USNA Women’s SIG STEM Fireside Chat with RADM Kate Gregory ’82 CEC, USN ret.

Thursday, January 14th we’re kicking off 2021 Fireside Chat Series featuring RADM Kate Gregory ’82 CEC, USN ret.  Kate had an amazing career in the CEC with many firsts and culminating with her assignment as the first female chief of staff for the First Naval Construction Division and commander of Naval Facilities Engineering Command.  Click here for an interesting insight into her naval career.

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Since her retirement, she has been busy.  Kate is currently Fermilab’s chief operating officer. She leads the Operational Excellence initiative, empowering leaders across the enterprise with metrics and associated analytics tools, streamlined work processes and resource alignment. She is also responsible for line management of the Facilities Engineering Services Section and the Workforce Development & Resources Section and is accountable for the FY2018 PEMP Corrective Action Plan and the FY2019 PEMP Notable Outcomes. Gregory manages the Contractor Assurance System, which crosscuts all the lab’s operations, and provides a meaningful summary of performance and compliance to the FRA Board of Directors and the Department of Energy. She serves as the Lab Liaison to the Operations and Finance Committee of the FRA Board.

Register in advance for this Fireside Chat here:
https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZcscuGurTsqGdeEotLwLMluJhYEPh80yAlS

USNA Women’s BIGGEST Cheerleader

On November 1st, Alumnae of the Naval Academy lost a great advocate. Susan Metzger, mother of CAPT Margaret (Peggy) Metzger, ’81, passed away (see he obituary below). As Peggy shared within the Women’s SIG, her mother “was was always the biggest cheerleader of women in any profession, but she was especially proud of we Academy “girls.”  A Navy Junior and Annapolis gal she would have jumped at the chance to go to USNA if it was an option.  When people asked me at school if I was there ‘for my dad?’ I would always say, ‘No, I’m here because my mom couldn’t come!'” Mrs. Metzger wrote Midshipman Metzger the following letter. It encouraged her and countless other women at USNA throughout the years. The Sisterhood of Mother B sends our deepest condolences to the Metzger family and we celebrate the life of one of the many mothers who encouraged and supported us on this journey to achieve what they could only dream. Fair Winds, ma’am. We have the watch.

Background:  In October 1979, a high ranking Admiral was invited to speak at one of USNA’s prestigious Forrestal Lectures. The Forrestal Lecture features a distinguished guest speaker and all midshipmen in the Brigade are required to attend. The lecture was about how USNA was training leaders and warriors. (In the 1980’s and until 1991 women were greatly restricted service selection options after graduation; only 5 pilot billets, 5 surface warfare (tenders, support ships no combatants) and the remaining billets restricted line were available to women upon graduation from USNA.) Place yourself in a woman midshipman’s shoes at that time. Imagine how demoralizing it was as a woman midshipman at USNA to be required to listen to a senior ranking Naval Officer give a lecture centered around the theme of training leaders and warriors; knowing full well that women were systematically excluded (by law) from the so-called best and most meaningful positions in the Navy at that time. During the question and answer portion of the lecture, MIDN Kathy Bustle ‘82 had the courage to stand up and ask the Admiral why the career opportunities for women at USNA were so limited. She specifically asked, “If the academy is training midshipmen to be warfare specialists, then why are women limited to 1100 (General Unrestricted Line), and restricted line such as EDO, CEC and Intelligence jobs?” It was a very direct and forthright question. However, the admiral mistook MIDN Bustle’s motivation for asking the question and also underestimated the anti-women sentiment at USNA at the time. Rather than answer the question directly, he responded to her question with another question, “Are you saying that women don t belong at the Academy?” The response from the Brigade was immediate. At that moment, all of the 4,000 male midshipmen (it seemed like all) in Halsey Field House leapt to their feet and started cheering and clapping. The Admiral’s rhetorical question was misperceived by some as open testimony from a senior ranking Naval Officer that women indeed, did not belong at USNA. The Superintendent called the Brigade to attention. The Superintendent and the distinguished guest speaker then walked out of Halsey Field House.

November 1, 1979

Dearest Peggy,

Well you have finally found out what price you have to pay to be different! I’m sorry you girls feel that you are being ill-used, but I think it was inevitable that the guys started being jealous of your progress and started hassling your group. All pioneers in new fields of endeavor are discriminated against, because of generations of tradition that is being flaunted. Of course you are right. You should be supported by the Navy. But the only support that is guaranteed to you is giving you the opportunity to get out and take the hard knocks. It’s rough for girls in professional fields, because they have not been brought up in the competitive atmosphere that boys are molded in.

I personally believe that women are much stronger in many, many ways than men. But they haven t been trained to use that strength. Their training is in using their weaknesses, and you have to toughen your attitude and play the game the way men do. They are sensitive, too, but they don t realize it, and if they hurt, they hurt back at any weakness they can fine. It’s like watching brothers and sisters compete in a family. The boys can’t resist frightening girls, teasing them or hurting them. They want attention too, and are jealous of the sisters achievements gained in feminine ways. They don t know how to compete in their sisters games, so they will use aggressive ways. What can parents do? If they side with either one of the children, they are wrong in the other’s eyes. You love him more than you love me! They strive to be fair, but each occurrence has to be handled differently depending on the circumstances.

All progress made by each of the children has to be made by themselves, and the parents have to encourage each of them to use every possible skill to improve without harming others. Just imagine if you were one of the guys at the Academy. I would be one of the hundreds of parents receiving calls and letters which detail the unfair way they are being treated compared to the girls. In their eyes the Navy has favored the girls and the girls haven t earned everything they have gained in the same field of hard knocks that the boys use.

If you are not being supported now, the Navy may be telling you girls that you are not quite as tough as you need to be, and you need to realize what a difficult life you will have once you graduate. You classmates will support you when the chips are down but day to day in the military and civilian life you will be criticized and discriminated against because you are going against tradition. As Viki said — you really feel it when you go to foreign countries. Being tough does not imply that you girls should be masculine or talk rough. It denoted developing a strong faith in yourself, visualizing your present and professional goals every single day, and developing a strong bond of dedicated friendship with the women with the same ideals.

You will be a minority that understands the task you have undertaken and the difficulties involved. Together you will learn strategies and techniques to improve your positions. It will not be a group that spends time whining and crying and complaining about your lot. It will develop the answers to ways of coping in this new environment and with the other men and women in your work. I read many magazine articles and books about the problems that women are encountering in all professional fields. The first breakthrough is allowing the women to enter the field — either at the educational level or the hiring level. After that, no progress is guaranteed, no matter how forward looking the company is.

Many of the people with whom they work put unseen or unrecognized obstacles in front of them. Many of the obstacles are created by the women themselves in the manner in which they handle their work, their associates or themselves. We as a group have a lot to learn. While the rest of the world is learning to accept us and appreciate us, we have to retrain our own thinking and techniques.

Believe in yourself. Believe so much that you can hold on to the thought that you are a Naval Officer almost as if it were something you can hold in your hands. Hold it — hug it. That is the seat of your confidence. Believe in each other. Help your friends to develop the self- confidence and pride that can survive the name calling, the silent techniques, the slurs or thoughtlessness of the people they work with. It is a weakness in others that is being exhibited.

Your purpose at the Academy is to become indispensable. You girls will become the kind of officers that the Navy cannot do without. Someday you won’t make “NEWS”, but as long as you are the originals, you cannot avoid it. One thing you girls can do would be to try to turn the interviews around…to talk more about the achievements of the guys and how they have helped you…to keep the interviews short and professional…to stress the feelings that this is an interview about the Academy, not about the freaks of nature.

When you girls meet together, do not use the session as an opportunity to complain, to cry or talk dejectedly. Take the problem-solving attitude that you are capable of using. Attack the problem as a challenge. Make positive suggestions to cope with the specific problem. If you feel it is valuable, document each occurrence, suggest solutions, testing of the solutions and results of the tests. Then, you can try the next solution and see how it works. Girls following after you will be able to benefit from a healthy, creative technique of coping with professional life. Then you will be on your way to making a valuable contribution to the Academy and to the Navy.

Take the adversity and turn it around so that it becomes a benefit. You are probably going to get more than your share of duty as Laundry Officer and Mess Officer and Music Officer. They really don’t know you very well. Of course the officers at the Academy know you well as students. But the rest of the Navy is very unsure about you. After all the Navy is made up of people — it’s not a fixture like the Washington Monument. The detailers have to be very sensitive to the impact of the women on other people with whom they will have to serve. This has to be handled slowly and with care. Until they know how well you can do the jobs, and how well other people work with you THEY cannot be blind to your sex.

Women have been doctors for years — but they are usually Pediatricians, Gynecologists, Dentists, Scientists — I have never heard of a woman surgeon or heart specialist. It will come. Some day we’ll even have a woman on the Supreme Court. Well, Peggy, this off-the-cuff letter is very disjointed and full of misspellings but I don’t have time to type it over. If you want to share some of these ideas with your friends, it would be a fine compliment to me. I hope some of this has been helpful to you. I want you to know that all your family are behind you 100% — but we are behind you. We cannot lead the way, we cannot write to the CNO, we cannot pass laws that guarantee you will be free of harassment or discrimination. BUT YOU CAN……..and will achieve your goal.

Love,

Pollyanna

Post Script:   The same day that Peggy’s mom wrote this letter and put it in the mail, James Webb published his article about women at the Naval Academy, “Why women can’t fight”.  These two events together created a perfect storm of for the women at the Naval Academy.  The Letter from Peggy s Mom provided in this essay was circulated among several women midshipmen. It was a small but significant way that some USNA women coped with this deeply demoralizing event. Its words had the power to motivate and provide hope then, as it does now, many decades after a mother penned it to her daughter. 

Let Me Be a Plebe, Sir

By a Silent Sister
With Introduction by Kate McCreery Glynn ’98

Naval Academy plebes are taught that only five responses exist to a question from an upperclassman: Yes Sir. No Sir. Aye aye Sir. I’ll found out Sir. No excuse Sir.   But what is the appropriate response when a question posed falls outside the limits of military decorum, leadership, or decency?  In this era of #metoo, stories abound of women cornered, literally and figuratively, by a boss, a superior, a man with power over her career, or life, or dignity.  The military, with defined hierarchies, is unsettlingly fertile ground for this particular form of toxicity.   

 An anonymous Sister submitted this recollection, pointing out rightly that the Brigade is literally on lock down due to COVID, and boredom plus hormones plus one quarter of your population conditioned to obey-orders-and-not-rock-the-boat-lest-plebe-year-become-truly-unbearable, is a recipe for potential abuse.   Her recommendation for a sixth Annapolis-approved plebe response, ready to deploy when an upperclassman’s attention is on more than your gig-line.  

We cannot emphasize enough how hard it is to stand up for yourself in a situation like this, your brain plebe-year addled and sleep deprived, your lesser status emphasized daily.  Which proves the point:  a readymade response like “I just want to be a plebe, Sir!” might be the very thing needed to give plebes, less self-assured that the author, a way to set boundaries.

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“Let me be a plebe, sir.”

I went to a USNA Foundation military college for a year prior to matriculating at USNA.  My battalion commander dated my company commander.  That same battalion commander was in my history class: I tried to deal with his inappropriate comments one at a time but ended up embroiled in a much bigger situation.  I tried to take those lessons with me to USNA. 

Plebe year first semester, an average of 2.5 youngsters outside the company asked if I had a boyfriend or what my room number was, ever month.   I don’t think it was because I was irresistible; I think I presented as easy to intimidate:  a lamb, low hanging fruit.

One particular JerkFace who wouldn’t give it a rest lived on first deck next to the ice  machine I would frequent during study hour (I like ice!).   He must have heard me greeting people and squaring off in front of the machine: his head would pop out from the room (suspiciously lacking nameplates as I recall—why the need for anonymity Sir?) right next to the icemaker and ask me in to listen to music. 

“I worked hard to get here, sir.  Let me be a plebe, sir.”   The first time, this was enough to dissuade him.

But not every time. 

The next time he demanded that I recite the noon menu for the next day at the top of my lungs.  No surprise, another upperclassman popped out of his room, shushed me, and corrected my tormentor for asking rates during study hour.   He denied it, so of course the next question was to me.  What the heck was I up to? 

“Sir, he asked me to come to his room and listen to music.  He doesn’t have a name plate on his room.  I worked hard to get here.  Let me be a plebe, sir.” 

That worked once.  But not every time.  When the exact same scenario played out a few days later, and JerkFace denied ordering me to recite the menu again, my response was more pointed:

“Sir, I just want ice.  I just want to be a plebe.  If this midshipman can’t leave me alone I have only so many options:  I can tell my squad leader, I can get my classmates and come down and rumble him OR my favorite, I come down here alone and you send him home in a body bag to his mommy with a note that says – You failed.  He was not a good person.”  


To his credit, the upperclassman led JerkFace away down the hall, and I was left to get my ice.

Then a few days later JerkFace actually chastised me for getting him in trouble.  I just shook my head:  Your mistakes; your consequences.  Then, on yet another study-hour ice-run JerkFace told me I was banned from his deck (the ice machine was a few floors down from my room).  I responded that he had no authority to do that.  His response was to start whisper-yelling at me, presumably so he wouldn’t get in trouble for harassing me during study hour.  I was deliberately loud when I responded: “Sir, I just want ice.  I don’t want any trouble.”  Sure enough, another door popped open, and when an uperclassman’s head emerged, added loudly that I live on the fourth deck.  To his credit, the upperclassman charged us and lit up JerkFace asking a plebe where she lived. 

I offer my personal experience with this particularly loathsome JerkFace to exemplify the need for change. The five basic response (Yes sir; No Sir; Aye, Aye sir; No excuse sir; I’ll find out sir) are appropriate in almost every professional situation a plebe might find herself in.  But a need exists for a sixth response, one engrained like the original five, and ready to deploy when someone uses their authority to create an inappropriate dynamic and a boundary must be reestablished.  “I just want to be a plebe, Sir!”