NORFOLK (NNS) -- In observance of Women’s History Month, Naval Facilities Command (NAVFAC) Atlantic’s Special Emphasis Women’s Committee hosted a panel discussion by women in leadership on March 27 at the command’s headquarters building. During a two-hour session, four leaders from different disciplines shared personal stories of their professional journeys before an audience of approximately 50 members of the NAVFAC Atlantic workforce.
In welcoming those attending the event, NAVFAC Atlantic Commander Rear Adm. Darius Banaji, reflected on the emergence of women in the federal government, dating from the passage of the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883, which opened civil service to women.
Banaji spoke of the growth of women in federal service, noting that more than 43 percent of all current civil servants are women, and highlighted similar growth in NAVFAC Atlantic, were 40.4 percent of all civilian, military and contract employees are female.
The impact of women within NAVFAC Atlantic has extended far beyond presence. They are clearly making a difference, Banaji asserted, pointing out that NAVFAC Atlantic’s Employee of the Year, Supervisor of the Year and leader of the Teams of the Year for 2018 were all women. This is not a one-time phenomenon, as 80 percent of those receiving these awards since 2014 have been women.
The panels keynote speaker Susan M. Hauser, Deputy Operations Officer and Contingency Engineering Business Line Leader for NAVFAC Headquarters in Washington, D.C. began by telling the story of how she was one of only five women in a class of 250 civil engineering graduates from Virginia Tech. She explained to the audience how she progressed to her current position, a position in which she is responsible for oversight and visibility of the execution of $10 billion in NAVFAC products and services world-wide in support of the Navy, Marine Corps and shore establishments. Hauser outlined the challenges and successes of her career, focusing on the choices that she made during the progression of her career.
“Everyone has choices in life,” said Hauser. “But I’m here to tell you why I chose kindness and to be myself.”
Her personal experience included instances of harassment, discrimination and inappropriate behavior by male coworkers, generating in her a range of emotions. Hauser’s reaction to one event, which involved the behavior of a female coworker led to a response which ultimately impacted the path of her professional career.
“As a human, we have emotions,” Hauser reflected. “Bad ones and good ones. I went to my bad emotions - anger, pride, vengeance. But then a good thing forced me to let go…to let go of the negative. I simply chose kindness. People to this day say: ‘You can't be kind in the business world.’ I think you can.”
Hauser was joined on the panel by Capt. Stephanie Jones, NAVFAC’s Inspector General, Benita Flye, Director, Office of Civilian Resources for the Norfolk Operations Center, and Cmdr. Rebecca Barrett, Production Officer for NAVFAC Atlantic.
Jones spoke to the audience explaining how her assignments as a Civil Engineer Corps officer have taken her to a wide variety of jobs at locations around the globe and shared one of the lessons she learned over the course of her career: the importance of not allowing the environment to intimidate her as a person or a leader. Jones recalled the example set by a senior enlisted leader assigned to Jones’ first Seabee battalion.
“There were no senior enlisted females (assigned to the battalion) until Master Chief White,” said Jones. “She was an incredibly strong leader. Her impact was felt throughout the unit. We all respected her. She changed organizational behavior. Even in the male-dominated construction world, she maintained who she was.”
Flye the Director of the Office of Civilian Human Resources at the Norfolk Operations Center who leads over 280 employees that provide human resource services to many Hampton Roads-area Navy commands took the podium next. She described how she had served nearly 22 years at the Operations Center, beginning as a Priority Placement Program hire as an assistant, and progressing to her current leadership role. During her speech Flye called on all members of the workforce to reflect on themselves as they chart the progression of their careers.
“Look at yourself, evaluate, determine your plan and figure out how you will move forward,” advised Flye. “Sometimes you may have to leave a job to figure out where you want to be. And be grateful for what you have.”
Barrett, whose responsibilities include addressing and improving measures of performance within NAVFAC Atlantic closed out the panel, focusing on the two groups of people who lined her path of professional development from Russian linguist to Registered Architect.
“Two groups of people – critics and cheerleaders – were very important to me,” said Barrett. “The critics made me stronger and helped correct me when I made errors. The cheerleaders gave me hope and faith in myself to keep going even through tough times.”
The Women’s Subcommittee is a NAVFAC Atlantic Special Emphasis Program which supports the command’s efforts in affording equal employment opportunity without discrimination at all grade levels and in all segments of NAVFAC Atlantic regardless of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, physical or mental disability, age or sexual orientation.