Fort McCoy News March 24, 2017

Break down barriers,

Women's History Month panelists say

BY AIMEE MALONE
Public Affairs Staff

Empowerment and breaking through barriers were the themes for the March 15 observance of Women's History Month at Fort McCoy.

Four guest speakers participated in a panel on trailblazing women — Capt. Kimberly Elenberg, director of Operation Live Well with the U.S. Public Health Service in Arlington, Va.; Pastor Ethell Tillis, associate pastor at Tomah (Wis.) Pentecostal Assembly; Lori Freit-Hammes, director of health promotion at Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare in La Crosse, Wis.; and 1st Sgt. Leah Mariano with the Staff Sgt. Todd R. Cornell Noncommissioned Officer Academy at Fort McCoy, Wis.

Freit-Hammes said the people in her life, including her mother and both male and female teachers, were always very supportive of her goals. No one ever told her while she was growing up that she couldn't do something just because she was female, she said.
"I'm very fortunate that I've never had that cap that held me back from pursuing the dreams or ambitions that I had," she said.
Elenberg agreed that women in the United States have a great deal of freedom to chase their dreams.

A guest speaker panel comprising (left to right) Capt. Kimberly Elenberg
A guest speaker panel comprising (left to right) Capt. Kimberly Elenberg
with the U.S. Public Health Service at the Pentagon, Pastor Ethell Tillis
with the Tomah (Wis.) Pentecostal Assembly, Lori Freit-Hammes with
the Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare in La Crosse, and
1st Sgt. Leah Mariano with the Staff Sgt. Todd R. Cornell Noncommissioned
Officer Academy participates in the installation observance of Women's
History Month on March 16 at McCoy's Community Center at Fort McCoy.

Photo by Scott T. Sturkol

"The progress of women overall has grown exponentially. We as women in America are very privileged to be here," Elenberg said. "But there's still progress to be made."

Mariano agreed, "It's a work in progress. For me as a female (in the military) — and short, let me just put that out there — I have to push myself twice as hard as other people."

Tillis said she encountered resistance when she first decided to become a preacher.

"My husband told me, 'God does not call women to preach,'" Tillis said. "And I said, 'If he can talk to a donkey, he can talk to me.'"

She said the ministry has become more open and accepting of women as preachers and pastors. Women have always filled these roles in the church, but it's become less unusual to see women leading congregations.

"The field should have always been open to (women) to do anything we want to do because God made us all equal," Tillis said.
One audience member asked for advice as the father of two daughters. Elenberg and Tillis both said it is important to be role models for children.

"Treat them with love and respect," Elenberg said. "Model for your daughters how you would want them to be treated in a relationship, and then they will learn how to have healthy relationships as they grow up."

Freit-Hammes said it is important for children see their parents take on a variety of roles and jobs so they don't grow up thinking a task is solely the realm of one parent or the other.

"We don't have stereotypical roles in our home. (My husband) does more laundry than I do. I do clean and cook more because I enjoy it and I'm a neat freak. … That's my choice," Freit-Hammes said. "But I change the oil in our cars and lawn mower.

"Take on every role you can so that when your daughters look at you, they recognize that (they) can change the oil in a car and you can do laundry," she said.


A guest speaker panel comprising (left to right) Capt. Kimberly Elenberg
with the U.S. Public Health Service at the Pentagon, Pastor Ethell Tillis
with the Tomah (Wis.) Pentecostal Assembly, Lori Freit-Hammes with
the Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare in La Crosse, and
1st Sgt Leah Mariano with the Staff Sgt. Todd R. Cornell Noncommissioned
Officer Academy participates in the installation observance of Women’s
History Month on March 16.
Photo by Scott T. Sturkol


Fort McCoy Garrison Commander Col. David J. Pinter Sr. asks a question to a guest speaker panel during the installation observance of Women’s History Month on March 16.
Fort McCoy Garrison Commander Col. David J. Pinter Sr. asks a question
to a guest speaker panel during the installation observance of Women’s
History Month on March 16.
Photo by Scott T. Sturkol

The perception that certain roles belong to certain genders is one of the most significant barriers to female leadership, Freit-Hammes said.

"Some of the things that prevent women from advancing have a lot to do with policy and culture. For example, it's quite common for a woman to take maternity leave, no questions asked. But when a man comes forward and requests paternity leave, it's the perception that that's not the man's role," she said. Women are expected to stay home and take care of the children or at least make career sacrifices for the sake of their children that men are not necessarily expected to make.

Military spouses, who are predominantly women, are often held back by the constrains of their husband's careers, Elenberg said.

"A lot of the female (spouses) are underemployed because you're moving every couple of years," Elenberg said. It's difficult to advance in a career field when relocating every few years, she said.

"Women also tend to make up the majority of workers in careers that require licensing that may not transfer between states. As they move from state to state, that lack of license reciprocity means they have to pay more money (and spend more time) to get relicensed," she said. This process delays both career progress and salary increases.

Tillis said it's also important for young women to embrace who they are and focus on their strengths.

"They're trying to be like the men, and you don't need to be like a man," Tillis said. A woman embracing her gender should be no different than someone focusing on math because he or she is good at it, she said.

Elenberg also stressed that women should embrace their identities, saying she thought the younger generation of women focuses too much on being seen as the same as men instead of being equal to them.

"There are some differences between men and women, and we bring unique values to the table," she said. "We should be working toward our strengths, not trying to be the same (as men)."

Freit-Hammes said she sees a bright future for the young women of the future, and other panelists offered advice to help ensure that future.

"We have a way to go in representation and legislation," Elenberg said. "I think a lot of females are finding their voices, and they are finding those voices are vital. So the more they learn to use those voices constructively, the more opportunities we'll have."

Tillis urged men and women to break down barriers that stop people from pursuing their goals or helping their communities with their strengths. "Let's not accept these phony barriers that you have to be this tall, this color, (or) this gender," she said. "We should not allow anyone to create barriers, and if there is a barrier, let's not just hop over it. Let's destroy it."

For more on the Equal Opportunity program at Fort McCoy, call 608-388-6153.