Ms. Steffanie Easter, Director, Navy Staff Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, spoke at an LMI Women’s Forum event in honor of National Women’s History Month. With over 30 years of federal service experience, she became the first civilian and minority in her current Navy position. She shared her perspective on diversity and inclusion in the government and military, with an eye for how all of us can support continued progress toward equity.
Ms. Easter engaged the audience of LMI staff members and guests by walking amongst them and eliciting responses. She discussed gender balance in the workplace and the importance of males as allies and mentors. She called for accountability from women, asking them to continue “leaning in,” modeling success, and pointing out the places where the need for parity remains. In addition, Ms. Easter highlighted the challenge of men and women overcoming their unconscious bias. The only way to overcome bias is to confront and discuss it, and she summarized it well: “If we don’t speak up, people don’t learn, and if we don’t listen, we don’t learn.”
Encouraging women to reach for their goals, Ms. Easter told the crowd, “women must stop their negative self-talk when pursuing career development,” and they must believe that they are qualified and deserve the things they ask for. She noted that women are a true economic force and that encouraging them “makes sense and makes cents.” People should take every opportunity that they are given and not question “why,” but show up ready to deliver and succeed.
Ms. Easter’s candid willingness to offer her perspective as she shared her journey was most welcome and appreciated. Women and men in the room nodded their heads in agreement, as it seemed clear that she made them feel inspired and resolute. Ms. Easter’s timely and nuanced message for Women’s History Month is “celebrate the victories, no matter how small. But expect more.” As we wrap up our celebrations of National Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, let Ms. Easter’s words be a source of inspiration to us all as we commend women’s achievements of today and continue to strive for equality and empowerment every day.