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Some of the lovely ladies of L.E.A.P.

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Power of a woman

The importance of finding your tribe

Years ago, I found myself in the heart of Seoul, South Korea, which, at the time, was the largest city in the world – a far cry from Bremen, Alabama, a small town in Cullman County without even a single stoplight, where I was raised.

Scarier than that, though, was that I was the only woman at my worksite. In the early 2000s, women comprised less than 15% of the United States Army. As the over-achiever I am, I found myself in an even more male-dominated field – satellite communications. I am not sure what the statistics of the male-to-female ratio are today. Still, during my nine years in the military, I only ever met two women in the same field as me, and only one of them did I manage to run into twice: once during training at Fort Gordon, Georgia (just outside Augusta) and then again at FOB Shank in the Logar Province of southeast Afghanistan three years later.

Even more difficult than being one of the few: women in the military were overly harsh on each other. By nature of the environment in which we found ourselves, we constantly competed to be better than our male counterparts to prove we even belonged in the military. A phrase I can go a lifetime without hearing again is, "Man up." I shudder at the thought of all the times leaders would say this to us to motivate us to not be "weak like a girl" – among many terms and phrases used to disparage anyone not as strong as the one uttering the insulting phrase. So then, even more, we women service members had to compete to show "the boys club" how we were not like the women service members they often complained about – even in our presence.

To say it was an unhealthy atmosphere is an understatement.

So, imagine my surprise when I was drawn into a group of women - moreover friends, all in the small business world. These ladies do not have a military background, yet they accept me for who I am, quirks and all! Even more, we take others. We have no competition; we have goals and ambitions to improve. Our competition lies only within ourselves as we each try to do better than we did the day before. In the year I have known them, I have grown more in my confidence and inner strength than during my entire military career, a feeling I do not share lightly.

When one of us rises, we all rise – a sentiment often used regarding women's relationship with one another, and for good reason, too. Research shows women are 22% less likely to reach the managerial level than their male counterparts, and the gap between women's and men's promotion to the C-Suite is even more concerning. Many factors have been identified to cause this grave disparity. But rather than a statistical analysis here, I think a more productive approach might be to explore what women's empowerment among us can do.

When one of us reaches the upper rungs of the proverbial ladder, not only should we make a way, forge the path or break the glass ceiling for the women behind us, but we should also reach back with both hands and lift up those attempting to follow in our footsteps. Rather than simply depending on the ocean to raise the boat, we should toss out the lifesaver to those who have not yet made it onto the ship, help those stuck on the ladder's lower rungs and pull them into the boat with us.

Believe me, having experienced a career starved for the support of other women and now a life abundant with it, women need each other.

So, if you haven't found your tribe of women to uplift you, let me know. I'll happily cheer you on from the sidelines of whatever game you find yourself playing in this thing called life.

"We need the generation before us to guide us along their cleared path and encourage us to continue further. We need our own generation to laugh and commiserate with, to know we're not alone in this sometimes strange world. We need the generation behind us to remind us where we started - the ground in which our roots were established - and motivate us to keep moving forward so they can pick up the torch and carry it forward."

  • Taken at Yongsan Garrison in Seoul, South Korea in 2008. We were part of 362d Sig Co, 41st Sig Bn, 1st Sig Bd. - Rebekah Lloyd
  • Taken in 2013 while at Camp Humphreys in South Korea. Rebekah Lloyd was with 602nd C Co., 2ID.
  • Some of the lovely ladies of L.E.A.P.
  • Dr. Rebekah Lloyd

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