Fort McCoy News March 25, 2016

Women's History Month speaker stresses diversity

Public Affairs Staff

The United States benefits greatly from including women and diversity in the workforce, said Maj. Gen. Marcia Anderson, guest speaker at the March 17 Women's History Month observance at Fort McCoy.

Anderson most recently served as the deputy chief of the Army Reserve from 2011 to 2014. She also has served as the deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Human Resources Command. In her civilian capacity, she is the clerk of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.

Photo: Maj. Gen. Marcia Anderson gives her presentation as guest speaker for the Fort McCoy observance of Women's History Month March 17 at McCoy's Community Center.
Maj. Gen. Marcia Anderson gives her presentation as guest speaker for the Fort McCoy observance of Women's History Month March 17 at McCoy's Community Center. Photo by Scott T. Sturkol

Anderson started her presentation with statistics. As of 2014, she said, there were 162 million women compared to 157 million men living in the United States. About 75 million women who are age 16 or older work, making up about 47.4 percent of the workforce. About 55 percent of college students are women.

Female veterans in the United States number about 1.6 million, she said, and about 20 percent of the military is women. As of the last election, 101 women serve in Congress.

On the other hand, Anderson said, women still are paid less than men. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median annual salary for U.S. women in 2014 was $39,621. The median annual salary for U.S. men was $50,383.

"We're kind of insulated in the military and if you work for the government," Anderson said. Men and women make the same amount if they're working the same positions. "But for the rest of the workforce, that's not necessarily true.

"Working in a law firm, even though I started out at the same salary as some of the young male lawyers, a year or two later, there'd be a difference in how much they were getting compensated and how much I was," she said.

"What happens traditionally (is) when more and more women move into an occupation, something kind of strange happens; the salaries begin to flatten out," Anderson said.

Teaching is a good example of that phenomenon, she said. Far more men used to be teachers, but as more women moved into the field, salaries began to stagnate.

In 1950, only about one in three women worked outside of the home, Anderson said. Today, that number has increased greatly.
"More and more women entered the workforce, because it took a two-income family … to achieve the standard of living that we aspire to in this country," Anderson said.

Over time, she said, this shift has inspired changes for everyone in the workforce.

"Before more and more women came into the workforce, nobody talked about child care," Anderson said. "Nobody talked about things like flexible work schedules. People didn't talk about telework.

"They didn't talk about a lot of these things that make work life better, not just for women, but for men as well," she said. "There has been a huge benefit by having a more-diverse workforce by adding more women."


Those benefits also extend to the military, Anderson said. In December, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that all military occupations and positions would be open to women.

"I think we as a military benefit when we open up opportunities to everybody," Anderson said. "Nobody wants the standards to change … because we want everyone who goes on the battlefield to come back home. That means every member of the team needs to be up to speed and up to task."

Every member of a team adds value, Anderson said. Including women in politics, nationally and locally, also is important.

"A lot of the impact is at the local level," Anderson said. Local school boards decide on the school curriculum, which textbooks to buy, and the qualifications for teachers. City councils decide what projects are important to their cities and influence the standard of living.

Young people, especially military members, should be encouraged to join in these processes and influence change, she said. Women also should be encouraged to consider career fields that traditionally have been male-dominated.

"We have to encourage young women to look at the STEM fields," Anderson said, referring to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. "We need to have our best and our brightest involved in (science and technology), and that includes our young women."

Anderson summed up her presentation by discussing several common traits shared by great women, such as abolitionist Sojourner Truth, first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, astronaut Sally Ride, and former Rep. Barbara Jordan.

"They were not afraid to take risks, to do things that other people might have found uncomfortable," she said.

They were not afraid to challenge tradition, Anderson said, citing Roosevelt's willingness to fly with a Tuskegee Airman and arrange for African-American singer Marian Anderson to perform on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1939.

They weren't afraid to speak truth to power, she said of Jordan. And they weren't afraid to tell their daughters, sisters, and friends that "often the only limitations on us are those we impose on ourselves."

"You love your sisters, you love your daughters, you love your granddaughters. So I know you want them … to be all they can be," Anderson said.

"Every member of the team adds value. In some cultures, women are not even allowed in the room, let alone at the table," she said. "I think those cultures suffer because they are not able to bring everybody to bear to solve a problem."

Maj. Lashundra Ollie of the 86th Training Division said she thought Anderson's presentation was outstanding.

"I like the message of empowerment she gave to women," Ollie said. "Overall, it was a great Women's History Month presentation."

Sgt. 1st Class Diana Vazquez of the 181st Infantry Brigade agreed.

"It was very informative," she said, especially the statistics about women's involvement in the workforce. Because Vazquez works in a military occupational specialty that's about 90 percent male, she said she found the improvements between the 1930s and now especially interesting.

For more information on Equal Opportunity observances, call 608-388-6153.