Our nation has made great strides towards equalizing opportunity and improving economic prospects for women, but there’s still a long way to go. Women still struggle to break the glass ceiling in management levels in business, public office, the military, and high tech sectors, where most future jobs will be.
The absence of women in a whole range of occupations can sap a young girl’s dreams. If there are no or few women in a field she aspires to, she may not even picture herself succeeding there and give up.
I have first-hand experience with discrimination. At 18, I left home for the United States Air Force Academy in the ninth class allowing women. When I got there, women were banned by law from being fighter pilots despite going through the exact same training as the men. I’ve never been someone who can simply walk by a problem, so I became determined to become a fighter pilot to show we could do it.
After Congress repealed the law and the Pentagon changed its policy, I became the first woman in U.S. history to fly a fighter in combat, in the A-10 Warthog, and later became the first woman to command a fighter squadron.
I wasn’t alone. Other women were challenging the male-only assignments. We were determined and did not fail. We faced isolation, overt hostility, and the need to prove ourselves beyond what any male pilot had to do.
One barrier down, they say, next barrier higher. Well, maybe not higher, but certainly different.
On my first combat deployment to Kuwait, I discovered a discriminatory Pentagon policy that required servicewomen to wear Muslim garb when traveling off-base in Saudi Arabia (among other demeaning policies towards women stationed there). I fought for eight years to get it changed and on behalf of my fellow servicewomen, put my career on the line to file McSally vs Rumsfeld in court. I later shepherded legislation that passed the House and Senate unanimously and was signed by the President ending the demeaning policy once and for all.
I have been fighting for women my whole life, and will continue this fight in Congress. I support legislation to end subtle pay discrimination, help victims of domestic violence, and end sexual assault in the military, legislation I was disappointed to see many in my own party oppose.
I also support efforts to help provide better economic opportunity for women (and men) by rolling back stifling regulations, keeping taxes low, and increasing work flexibility.
When it comes to fighting for women, sometimes the “best man for the job” is a woman, and when I’m in Congress, I’ll wake up fighting for women in this community every day.
(Editor’s Note: Martha McSally is a Republican candidate running in Congressional District 2.)