Thursday, March 3, 2016

USNA Celebrates Women’s History Month

By MC2 Tyler Caswell

The U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) commenced its Women’s History Month celebration Mar. 1 with two events featuring prominent speakers.

The luncheon and dinner events, hosted by the academy's Joy Bright Hancock Organization (JBHO), provided a unique opportunity for midshipmen and officers on the Yard to learn about the history of women at USNA.

Mr. James Cheevers speaks during a Women's History Month kickoff luncheon

Mr. James Cheevers, associate director and curator of the Naval Academy Museum, spoke during the luncheon about the evolution of attitudes toward women during his 58 years of employment at USNA.

“I sat in on a meeting with a group of women alumni for an upcoming exhibit. There were quite a number of classes represented, and it was fascinating how the times have changed,” said Cheevers. ”The attitude toward women from what it was like originally to what it is today was quite an eye opener. It seemed to me like there have been a lot of barriers that have come down over the years.”

This year marks the 40th anniversary of women attending USNA. Eighty-one women arrived on Induction Day in 1976 to become the first female midshipmen of the Class of 1980. To recognize this milestone, the Naval Academy Museum will feature an exhibit, starting in June, highlighting the women of USNA and their accomplishments on the Yard and throughout their careers.

Capt. Candace Eckert speaks at USNA's Women's History Month Banquet

Later that night, Capt. Candace Eckert, special assistant for diversity and inclusion in the Office of the Chief of Naval Personnel, spoke at the 2nd Annual Women’s History Banquet held at the Naval Academy Club.

“The theme for this year’s Women’s History Month is ‘forming a more perfect union,’” said Eckert. “I think it is wonderful to include words from our constitution. It embodies what we serve. I think it’s wonderful to see it applied to something contemporary like Women’s History Month.”

Today, women comprise 18 percent of the Navy. There are more than 59,000 active duty women serving in the Navy and more than 9,000 female Reservists.

USNA's Women's History Month Banquet, held at the Naval Academy Club

“Over the years, workforce management practices have matured,” said Eckert. “Things like diverse thought, behaviors and life experience have become recognized as critical to organizational success. The term diversity is now commonly used to describe gender and racial attributes, as well as cognitive and non-cognitive qualities. As leaders we want and need diversity to help solve the complex problems we face.”

Women make up 27 percent of the Naval Academy student body, and female midshipmen continue to make great strides at USNA. The Women's History Month events organized by JBHO provide an oppotunity to recognize and discuss those accomplishments.

“The goal is just to spark conversation,” said Midshipman 1st Class Christina Lanier, JBHO president. “The more we can engage with the brigade and talk about issues of diversity, the more we can celebrate the different people that make up the brigade as a whole. I’m really happy to be able to contribute to something like this.”

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