DHA honors empowered women who strengthen the nation

The Defense Health Agency celebrated Women's Equality Day with an event whose theme was Empowered Women Strengthening the Nation. (Photo: Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute)
The Defense Health Agency celebrated Women's Equality Day with an event whose theme was Empowered Women Strengthening the Nation. (Photo: Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute)

DHA honors empowered women who strengthen the nation

by Paul Reynolds
Defense Health Agency

Empowered Women Strengthening the Nation was the Defense Health Agency theme for 2022 to celebrate Women's Equality Day.

The celebration was underscored during a virtual fireside chat with Army Brig. Gen. Mary Krueger, commanding general of the Army’s Regional Health Command-Atlantic held on Aug. 11.

Women's Equality Day honors the ratification of the 19th Amendment on August 26, 1920, which prohibits voter discrimination on the basis of gender. This legislation was a major step to remove barriers to women's full participation in American public life. The observance has grown to focus attention on women's continued efforts toward gaining full equality in every aspect of life, and serves as a call for all Americans to publically affirm the dignity of women and to support the fight for full gender equality.

“For me, equality has a feeling. It’s measured by the happiness someone has in their life. The ability to say ‘yes’ when asked: Do you feel like the opportunities and tools you have are allowing you to pursue your unique version of happiness?” said Army Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Ron Place, director of the DHA.

"We'll know we have equality when we stop talking about it because women will have a deep sense of fairness and calmness in their own pursuit of happiness," Place added.

We must acknowledge the value that women bring to the table and recognize those trail breakers who paved the way through patient, persistent, courageous action, according to Krueger.

"I think we can all learn from women like Elizabeth Blackwell and Mary Walker. Some of the first female physicians in the United States. They both brought their talents to bear in the face of great ridicule."

"Let's also talk about Maya Angelou," she added. "She became the first black female street car conductor in San Francisco after repeatedly being turned down for the position.”

She added, “Angelou’s bravery and persistence in pursuing this role was an example of her strength of character that later led her to be a world-famous author and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.”

Krueger referenced these women of competence and character who served as models for future generations as trailblazers and trail makers.

Once we recognize the value that women bring to the table, we must create space for them to share it.

We bring value to the table, Krueger acknowledged, "when we open the door to diversity of experience and thought and use that gift to create well-rounded teams that can help us capitalize on our strengths."

To get that point, "we have to challenge the assumptions that we hold, a goal that takes some intentional work," she added.

Krueger also discussed the importance of cultivating trust and modeling humility and kindness as leaders in the workplace.

"The positive unintended consequence of owning that we don't have all the answers, is that we extend trust to our teammates, relying on their expertise. This requires humility and kindness. We must extend trust to generate trust," she said.

Finally, Krueger called upon everyone to embrace the characteristics that make women unique.

"Women serving in the military have an overlap between their family life, in their most prolific reproductive years, and their military career. How do we work in a way that honors both?"

Krueger emphasized that the ultimate goal in celebrating Women's Equality is to create an environment where women no longer have to fight for equal rights.

"We know we have equality when we don't have to think about what somebody's heritage is or what their gender is. We look at their competence and character."

There is perhaps no more important place for the fight for equality to continue than in our health care system. For Krueger, bridging the gaps in access to care for women is an important battle cry for everyone in the Military Health System.

"Women are a significant part of our patient population and we have to acknowledge that women's health care needs are valid and important. We have to continue to address barriers to health care access and to respect what wellness looks like to our patients."

We have made progress as a nation yet we still have a long way to go. Until we reach our ultimate goal, we must continue our mission, she added.

“I expect every element of the DHA to monitor and assess gender equality – and to work towards filling gaps where they exist,” Place said. “Thanks for doing your part to challenge your own assumptions and unconscious bias along with building trust and empowering those around you.”

Watch the entire conversation in this video.

Learn more about MHS’ commitment to women’s health care.

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