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Throughout history, women have continuously been responsible for lasting, impactful change. From fighting for their rightful place in society to driving innovation in many industries, women have broken barriers. While these contributions have shifted our landscape, women still face many obstacles to equality—particularly in the workplace. 

Since the 1940s, women’s presence in the workforce has drastically increased, totaling 47% of today’s total working population. The number of women holding managerial and executive positions has also grown steadily. Despite these hard-fought gains, there’s still work to be done. Women report experiencing several challenges, including microaggressions, lack of support and lack of advancement. It’s because of these challenges that the workplace can feel like a mental minefield for many women, leading them to alter their personalities, isolate from teammates or ultimately, burn out.

Understanding these issues, Navy Federal prioritizes fostering inclusive spaces where our women team members not only feel seen, valued and supported, but also have the opportunities and flexibility to grow their careers.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we asked some of the women whose work propels us to reflect on their personal and professional journeys, writing a letter to their younger selves and sharing how they’re helping to create inclusive spaces for other women. While their journeys may differ, each of the women was able to bond over their similar experiences and the lessons they’ve learned.

Finding Her Voice

Staff Sgt. Faith Clark didn’t realize how far she’s come until she reflected on her journey. It wasn’t the easiest. She faced many childhood obstacles, including overcoming a severe speech impediment, racial microaggressions and later, the loss of her biggest supporter—her grandmother. However, it was those obstacles that would fuel her drive.

She joined the Air Force Reserve to help pay for college since juggling 2 part-time jobs and school was too challenging. Faith says that one decision helped shape who she is today.

It’s no secret the military is a male-dominated field, and women often struggle to find their footing and voice in such a setting—Faith did. While writing her letter, she recalled moments where she'd often ask lower-ranking male soldiers to relay information to her male counterparts simply because she knew they’d easily accept the information.

“Something I really regret is being a little too meek,” she said. “Now that I’m back home, I try to make it a point to mentor women in our unit [to not] accept it in the first place. Being able to look back on my experiences, I know [I don’t want] some of these women to be taken advantage the way I was.”

Faith doesn’t regret her decision to join the military, though. She attributes finding her confidence and voice to her military career.  

Today, when she’s not running the Air Terminal Operations Center in the AFR, she’s serving as a Business Operations Analyst here at Navy Federal.

Faith says writing her letter helped her realize all she’s experienced and accomplished—something she hadn’t yet done because she was always moving on to the next goal. And it’s quite a list. Since joining the military 7 years ago, Faith has traveled the world, received quite a few promotions, and obtained both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and now, she’s preparing for motherhood.

“I’ve never really stopped to think back or appreciate how much growth I’ve had. I think it’s unique to me being a woman and to me being a woman of color,” shared Faith. “My dad [always told me], ‘you’re going to have to be twice as good to get half of what somebody else would.’ So, I felt like I had to accomplish all these things. It’s always been one thing after [the] other, and it’s a little like imposter syndrome.”

She also shared how this experience helped her understand why support is so important for women. During her childhood and most of her adulthood, Faith’s grandmother was her support system. Now, she receives support from her friendships, the women in her unit and the women on her team at work. 

“I’m really lucky that, especially since we’re in a STEM business unit, somehow my entire team is all women. I don’t feel like I am treated much differently at least as an employee,” she said. “Overall, I feel like I am in an environment where I can flourish, and I don’t feel like that’s something that’s a barrier that holds me back.”

So, how does Faith show up for other women while in service and at work?

“I am a huge fan of mentoring. And I just refuse to let other women have that same experience thinking things can’t be changed—especially in the military. The culture of mentorship is letting other women know there’s a better way,” she shared.

"There will not always be a seat at the table. So, guess what? You make one. You make sure your voice is heard. You show them what a 'girl' can do and you don't stop there."

"There will not always be a seat at the table. So, guess what? You make one. You make sure your voice is heard. You show them what a 'girl' can do and you don't stop there."


Giving Herself Grace

Although Marketing Communications writer Kendall Phillips is still in the early stages of her career, that doesn’t mean she can’t reflect on her journey thus far and offer her future self some advice.

She’s always felt the pressure to be a high-achieving student, often excelling academically. Though it’s been rewarding, it’s often left her feeling stretched thin.

“I always felt like I needed to be everything to everyone, and the effects of burnout were palpable every time I returned home for a break,” she admits. “Should I be doing more at work? Am I missing milestones? Am I spending enough time with my loved ones?”

Like Faith, Kendall also struggled with imposter syndrome. She felt like her achievements during college were merely a stroke of good luck and not a result of her hard work. Even when it came time to start her career at Navy Federal, she didn’t feel she’d earned it. She says she’s been able to challenge herself to combat the imposter syndrome by noting the results of her work and reminding herself that she’s capable.

In her letter, she reflected on how moving to a new city all on her own has helped her grow. She built a new support system, many of whom are new friends and team members on her women-led team.

“We have a great group of women on our team who are always very supportive of each other, and I think a lot my support is derived from leaning on my peers at work. And I think that has been really encouraging, especially so early on in my career,” said Kendall.

Her newfound support system, and her own wisdom, have taught Kendall to accept that her best is enough. Writing the letter allowed her to see that she's deserving of grace and it’s okay to take time to slow down.

“Learning to find contentment with where I [am], rather than constantly questioning whether I [am] doing enough, [is] a hurdle I had to overcome,” she wrote. “I've learned that my best work doesn't stem from pushing myself to the limit, but rather from prioritizing my mental well-being.”

Kendall is now taking what she’s learned and applying it to how she advocates for the women in both her professional and personal life. Whether it’s encouraging them to prioritize their self-care or simply providing the space for them to vent, Kendall says it’s her way of championing inclusivity for other women.

Her best advice to other young professional women?

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions—even if it’s the why [behind] something. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. That will really clear up a lot of confusion,” says Kendall.

"If I could go back in time...I'd tell myself to stop doubting my skills and accomplishments, and that my fear of failure is holding me back immensely."

"If I could go back in time...I'd tell myself to stop doubting my skills and accomplishments, and that my fear of failure is holding me back immensely."


Becoming Her Own Champion

Law school wasn't the original plan for Public Policy and Compliance Manager Jennifer Rochino. Most women within her Filipino culture were encouraged to become doctors, engineers, nurses and wives, she says, but Jennifer chose to forge her own path.

While reflecting on her past, Jennifer says she spent a lot of time being an obedient people-pleaser. Often teased because of her race, she didn’t know how to fit in with the other kids. So, to avoid the teasing, she'd enter friendships with people who didn’t have her best interests at heart. She’d go along to get along out of fear of being alone. Later, that led to her struggling to set boundaries and say ‘no’ to friends and family.

It wasn’t until her last year of law school that Jennifer learned the power of becoming her own champion. With hardly any support from family, Jennifer found herself navigating life’s challenges completely on her own. Juggling those challenges while also starting her law career turned out to be some of her biggest lessons.

“That moment taught [me] to be independent,” she wrote in her letter. “[I learned to] persevere, but the memory will remain with [me] always and will stand out as a moment that changed [my] life.”

In her letter, Jennifer also recalled some of the microaggressions she experienced during her early law firm days. She'd be assigned more cases, be required to work more hours or altogether do the work of her male counterparts—all while being underpaid.

“I definitely felt like I was being taken for granted, especially since I was of equal skill as everyone else, but I would always do what I was told out of obedience,” said Jennifer. “Since then, I’ve learned to challenge the standards. Obedience is for pets. Not for people and not for me.”

Jennifer says these experiences have taught her how to be an advocate for herself and how to establish boundaries. Since joining Navy Federal, she says her professional life has gone through a complete transformation. She finally feels comfortable to speak up for herself and her team.

“It’s been night and day [compared to] my previous jobs,” she said. “If I have a problem or a roadblock, my first thought is not because I’m a woman. Unlike my previous jobs, that never crosses my mind.”

She also shared that Navy Federal’s women leaders have inspired how she leads her own team. She says she makes sure to lead with kindness and patience—something she didn’t always experience in her career.

How does she show up for herself and other women team members?

“While I sometimes struggle with showing up for myself, I still make sure I’m there for other women. I just try to show them to be comfortable with speaking up. It’s okay to set boundaries, and it’s okay to say, ‘no’. I just try to be a good example.”

"Speak your mind with passion and conviction. You will be a champion for those who need it, even when you feel like you don't have a champion of your own."

"Speak your mind with passion and conviction. You will be a champion for those who need it, even when you feel like you don't have a champion of your own."


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