For the first time in Naval history, four women of color are commanding U.S. warships at the same time. All four of them are nuclear-qualified commanders, meaning their next duty station could involve an aircraft carrier, People reported.
Kimberly Jones is commander of the USS Tortuga, LaDonna Simpson is captain of the USS Carter Hall, Kathryn Wijnaldum is commanding officer of the USS Oak Hill, and Kristel O’Cañas serves as the commanding officer of the USS Whidbey Island.
The four are all based at the Norfolk Naval Station in Norfolk, Virginia. They sat down for an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt. In a male-dominated field, these women are proud of their achievements. Interestingly, they are all mothers and have been juggling their Navy work with their family duties and making history in the process.
“We have managed to make our family work with the career that we have in the Navy, and we’ve all been successful at doing that,” Hall said.
“If it were not for, one, being married, for over 18 years, I would not know how to operate in a male-dominated profession. As a mother, it definitely taught me patience and time management,” Wijnaldum added.
Commander Jones, who joined the Navy in 1999, appreciates how far the Navy has come since she was an ensign. Looking back, there were no senior female officers she could go to when she had “gender-specific questions”, she said.
“I may not have felt comfortable asking my male boss,” she told People. “Now, to their credit, they were phenomenal leaders. However, when it came time [for] some of those more intimate conversations on how to plan your career with a family, as a mom, that did not exist.”
The women also attribute their success to STEM education and reiterated the importance of educating more women in STEM.
With the technical know-how, it will be hard to refuse a woman her rightful space in any organization especially the Navy in this age just because she is a woman. There were times when the story of these ground-breaking women of color was just a dream.
According to The Naval History and Heritage Command, the first women to serve in the U.S. Navy were nurses.
“When I was an ensign, there hadn’t been enough time that had passed in the Navy since the first women were allowed on combatant ships to even get to levels of leadership; where I, as an ensign, could even emulate them,” Commander Simpson, who is hopeful about the future of women in the service, said. “There just hadn’t been enough time.”
Simpson added that a time is coming when more women will be seen on combat ships with many more in high positions.