SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Women’s Equality Day commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote.
The amendment was first introduced in 1878 and ratified in 1920.
In 1971, the U.S. Congress designated Aug. 26 as Women’s Equality Day.
The observance of Women’s Equality Day not only commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment, but also calls attention to women’s continued efforts toward equality.
Additionally, on Jan. 24, 2013, then Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta lifted the official ban preventing military women from serving in direct combat roles. Since that time, the Department of Defense has worked closely with the services to implement the policy, opening more than 110,000 positions to women.
Home to more than 6,000 personnel, Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado has a diverse population of Airmen, both men and women.
For Staff Sgt. Rachael Avery, contract administrator with the 50th Contracting Squadron, Women’s Equality Day is an opportunity to stress equality for all people.
“I think many people have turned feminism into something that wants to degrade men and put women as the dominant sex, and I think we should be striving for true equality,” she said.
Tech. Sgt. Carmen Mena-Flores, noncommissioned officer in charge of commander’s support staff with the National Reconnaissance Office Operations Squadron, hopes in learning about Women’s Equality Day, individuals will honor women who advocated for equality.
“The day honors women who stood up against discrimination and demanded equal rights,” she said. “It’s about making sure our future generation can exercise their freedom and be free from violence and discrimination.”
Avery said she joined the Air Force for multiple reasons, one of them being equal opportunities for both men and women.
“The Air Force has been my most equalizing employer,” she said. “I saw sexism in retail environments and restaurants prior to my enlistment, but I've only seen it once here, and when I brought it up to my NCOIC, it was handled quickly. There will probably always be people in the squadron who have other beliefs but I've found them to be silenced when someone steps up and does something [right]. That may mean a confrontation or going to a supervisor and elevating it. Nothing will get done if no one speaks up.”
Avery praised the AF because of its focus on completing tasks at hand.
“It (AF) doesn't care about gender, race, or other demographics, it cares about getting the mission accomplished. If there's a draft for men, there should be for women as well,” she added.
Mena-Flores echoed Avery’s sentiment.
“Women’s Equality Day means treating everyone with fairness, respect and recognizing the needs of individuals,” she said. “We all enjoy the same rights, resources, opportunities and protections.”
Avery stressed Women’s Equality Day is about equality for both men and women.
“It's not about putting men down and raising women up,” she said. “It's about treating everyone as a capable human; all women don't need to be saved. We need the tools and the space to save ourselves. That doesn't mean that we don't need help. Check first and see what each individual needs in that particular situation, male or female.”
Avery offered advice to anyone, regardless of gender, who is thinking about joining the Air Force.
“My advice is the same for males and females: The Air Force is going to treat you like an adult, and you will be expected to handle your personal affairs, learn your job and stay focused at work,” she said. “There are a ton of resources to help you learn about car buying and finances, handling stress and anything else you could ever run into. You don't have to know everything when you enlist, but you do need to be motivated to get there.”
Mena-Flores offered her own advice, stressing the importance of staying true to yourself.
“Never forget where you come from because that made you who you are today,” she said. “Stay humble in everything you do and remember that we all need help. Don't be afraid to be vulnerable, don't be afraid to fail, and most importantly don't be afraid to fight back.”