Four US Navy officers have made history this week – and breaking new ground in a traditionally white and male-dominated field.
For the first time in US Navy history, four women of color are now commanding war ships at the same time, NBC News has reported.
The four officers, Kimberly Jones, LaDonna Simpson, Kristel O’Cañas, and Kathryn Wijnaldum, recently said that there have been dramatic changes for women serving in the Navy over the years.
The Navy “looks different in the fact that as an ensign, I looked around and at that time, there were not many senior female officers that I could necessarily go to for gender-specific questions,” Jones, who joined the Navy more than two decades ago, remarked in an interview clip obtained by People magazine.
“I may not have felt comfortable asking my male boss,” Jones also said. “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.”
She added: “And I was overseas, so the population was slightly smaller. And now walking this waterfront, there are leaders, there are role models, at every rank…That is something that I hope ensigns, young sailors, gravitate towards and take advantage of.”
These four women are all based at Norfolk Naval Station, in Virginia. They are all “Nuclear Surface Warfare Officers” – a qualification which is “extremely competitive” to obtain, according to the US Navy.
All four women “have spent a considerable amount of their time serving aboard nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and in nuclear-related shore duty billets,” the Navy noted.
Simpson said that while she was never discouraged from going after her career goals, she did not have many female role models.
“The Navy has been very supportive of my journey and my professional training. There weren’t any voices in the Navy that said that I could not achieve this goal,” Simpson said. “The only limitation was the fact that women as a whole hadn’t been on board combatant vessels until, I believe, it was 1994.”