Military Women Know How to “Lean In”

There have been dozens of op-eds and blogs circulating recently in response to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, and I’ve been devouring them in my limited free time. As a member of one of the key demographics her book targets — a working woman with small children — that means I’ve peered at many of them on the tiny screen of my smartphone in spare moments on the train or while my kids nap. The cross-talk about structural changes is, of course, valuable as we lobby for necessary systemic shifts.

While reading all the opinions, I realized that the Army already taught me how to lean in on a personal level. Serving in the military taught me a number of skills that have been essential to my success since I reentered the civilian world — and contain valuable lessons for other women:

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One former Army couple: Two different paths to successful transition.

“I wanted you to know that the Soldier for Life initiative of assisting Soldiers, veterans, and their families leave military service “career ready,” connected, and resourced to transition is working,” said former U.S. Army Captain RaeAnne Pae.

RaeAnne was recently hired by the New York Stock Exchange’s Event Marketing office after participating in the Military Veteran Forum held Sept. 11, 2012, and learning about the exhchange’s next Forum for Human Resources and Veterans Program Executives, to be held in November.

She decided to seek out a position with the New York Stock Exchange, or NYSE, knowing they value the experience veterans have, and they assist veterans in obtaining meaningful employment.

The connections RaeAnne made at these forums linked her to the U.S. Army’s Soldier for Life office, which shares a common goal of assisting our Soldiers achieve a successful transition so they remain Army Strong.

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Women in Combat: A Mother’s View

Sgt. Devin Snyder was one of four soldiers killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in June 2011. The 20-year-old military policewoman from Cohocton, NY, was one of 152 women that have died while in support of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001. They may not have had combat roles, but a majority of them were casualties of hostile situations in combat zones.

As Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta lifted the ban on women serving in combat roles, Sgt. Snyder’s mother, Dineen Snyder, said her daughter would be glad.

“That was one of the things that really upset her,” Snyder said. “That women couldn’t pick up a weapon and go out there and be infantry or artillery. That bothered her a great deal.”

Women make up about 15 percent of the armed services. The Defense Department says more than 280,000 women have deployed in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade.

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