Commentary: Equality in the force

Women's Equality Day is celebrated annually in the United States on August 26, commemorating the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which granted women the right to vote. (U.S. Air Force graphic by David Perry)

Women's Equality Day is celebrated annually in the United States on August 26, commemorating the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which granted women the right to vote. (U.S. Air Force graphic by David Perry)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah --

Women’s equality. It’s a challenge that has been around for years and continues to this day.  One hundred and one years ago, women had just gained the right to vote through the passing of the 19th Amendment, a right that had been guaranteed to others based on their gender.

The passing of the 19th Amendment did not include all women such as African-American, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American women; who would not get the right to vote for another 20 years with the passing of the Voting Rights Act.

The advocacy and strength of those who opened the door for women of all colors and races to participate in the political process are not lost on me. They risked violent retribution, societal stigma, and fatigue from trying to achieve something much bigger than themselves.

Women like Lucy Stone, Susan B. Anthony, Ida B. Wells, and Mary Church Terrell fought against disenfranchisement, bigotry, hatred, and sexism.

Today, the effects of their efforts ripple throughout the United States leadership, including the Department of Defense.

Kamala Harris, the first female U.S. vice president; Kathleen Hicks, the Pentagon’s first female Deputy Secretary of Defense; Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne Bass; Gen Wilma Vaught, the first woman to reach the rank of brigadier general; and Gen. Ann Dunwoody, the first woman to become a four-star general are just a few of the women who have cracked the glass ceiling.

Through their leadership, women of all colors and races have gained more confidence to have an active voice in the decision-making process and be seen as a leader and not just a woman.

Women make up 21% of active-duty Air Force members, 30% of Department of the Air Force civilians, 27% of the Air Force Reserve, and 22% of the Air National Guard.

Although more women serve in the United States armed forces than any other country, there is still a lot of room for growth, improvement, and change.

The fight for equality is not over by any means. It is on you … me … us, male and female, to emulate the values of those who fought for equality.

We can do this by creating a tapestry of equity, dignity, inclusion, and respect. Character that is judged only by the excellence of one’s actions, not their race, color or gender.

Happy Women’s Equality Day. Be the change you want to see.