Ambassador Carmen Martinez, Ambassador Carmen Lomellin, Dr. Theresa Sabonis-Helf, and Dr. Patricia Whitely speak during the Women’s History Month Observance held at U.S. Southern Command Aug. 15. (Photo by Juan Chiari, USAG-Miami)
MIAMI -- U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) hosted a Women’s History Month Observance Aug. 15 with the theme of “Women’s Education – Women’s Empowerment.” Led by an esteemed panel of presenters and a crowd of approximately 175 military and civilian participants, this event recognized the pioneering leadership of women and their impacts on the areas of education and government.
The organizers of the event, led by Lilia Martinez from the SOUTHCOM J9-Partnering Directorate, assembled an extraordinary panel of women to share their perspectives and advice with the audience. Ambassador Carmen Martinez, Civilian Deputy to the SOUTHCOM Commander and Senior Foreign Policy Advisor, facilitated the panel composed of: Ambassador Carmen Lomellin, Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States; ; Dr. Theresa Sabonis-Helf, Professor of National Security Strategy at National War College; and Dr. Patricia Whitely, Vice-President of Student Affairs at the University of Miami.
The panelists shared their thoughts on women’s progress and challenges in government and academia and on what drove each of them to rise to their current positions. The value of women’s role in government, education, and empowerment were the primary focus, with Dr. Whitely emphasizing the need to train women to step into roles of importance so they will be prepared when opportunities arise.
All three panelists agreed that while we must recognize and celebrate what women have accomplished, it is vital that we understand that there is still much to achieve. As Dr. Sabonis-Helf stated, that the discussion “is no longer about opportunity, it’s about opportunity cost… there are opportunities out there, but the opportunity cost [for taking advantage of them] is higher for women.”
SOUTHCOM was continuing a long tradition of acknowledging the importance of women to government, education, and society at large. In 1971, Congress designated August 26th as Women's Equality Day to honor the generations of women who struggled to gain the right to vote, as well as to recognize the continuing efforts of women towards achieving full equality. In 1987, the month of March was designated by Congress as “Women’s History Month,” and since 1995, Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama have issued a series of annual proclamations commemorating women and, as President Obama wrote in this year’s proclamation, to “reaffirm our steadfast commitment to the rights, security, and dignity of women in America and around the world.”