When Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates revealed this week that President George W. Bush had nominated the first female four-star general in the US military, he was quick to emphasize the significance of the appointment.
"Women continue to achieve great success and make invaluable contributions to the defense of this nation,” Gates said. “This is a historic occasion for the Dept. of Defense.”
However, the woman, the first lady for moving up the ranksfor females, Lt. Gen. Ann Dunwoody, tended to dismiss the feminist era.
"This nomination only reaffirms what I have known to be true about the military throughout my career," she said in a statement released by the Pentagon, "... that the doors continue to open for men and women in uniform.”
When it comes to discussing their status in what is still a very macho institution, Dunwoody and other accomplished women in the military tread lightly. They are adamant about having their successes judged against all of their male and female counterparts, and they frequently fight anything that could be construed as preferential treatment. Dunwoody, despite her desire to fit in, provides a unique perspective to her job.
“I’m a very positive person,” Dunwoody told in an interview. “I focus on all the goodness going on.” That doesn’t mean avoiding tough challenges, she explained, but rather, not losing track of the good things that are happening. But are there a lot of other generals who focus on “all the goodness?” “That might not be the first thing out of their mouths,” she conceded with a laugh.
Ann Elizabeth Dunwoody (born 14 January 1953) is a retired United States Army general. On November 14, 2008, she became the first woman in the history of the United States military and uniformed services to receive a four-star officer rank.
Ann Elizabeth Dunwoody wearing her decorated military uniform while saluting
When discussing whether men and women lead differently, Dunwoody cited a 2004 study of four Army divisions that had recently returned from missions in Iraq. It was discovered that while most leaders have great technical and tactical abilities, it was their interpersonal abilities that distinguished the top leaders. The study discovered a collection of characteristics shown by the officers most capable of achieving operational excellence and motivating good soldiers to stay in the Army, which it dubbed the "Big 12." Top of the list: maintains composure under pressure; defines missions, standards, and priorities effectively; understands the larger picture and provides context and perspective.
Those are the kinds of characteristics that many people attribute to women. "but maybe that's because I've been in a green suit for so long." Dunwoody replied, "but maybe that's because I've been in a green suit for so long." She didn't use it as evidence that women are poised to rise through the ranks. Instead, it implies that if there is a "softer," female way of doing things, that approach is becoming increasingly favored in the military as it modernizes and battles to retain its employees.
When questioned about her own leadership style, Dunwoody didn't hesitate to respond with her Myers-Briggs personality rating. She's an ENFP (extraversion, intuition, feeling, perceiving), which means she's extraverted, intuitive, feeling, and perceiving.
“Warmly enthusiastic and imaginative. See life as full of possibilities….Spontaneous and flexible, often rely on their ability to improvise and their verbal fluency.” Again, is that a common military type? “I would guess that only 1 percent of the Army” fits that description, she said.
“I am a people person,” Dunwoody said, adding that she likes to lead by walking around, asking soldiers, “How is that chow in the mess hall? How are the barracks?"
In November 2008, Gen. Dunwoody became the first female four-star general in US history. She devoted more than 37 years of her life to military service in the Army. Her career was packed with several duties and accomplishments as a result of her dedication.
Genera Dunwoody wearing a blue and light blue army dress
Dunwoody insisted she’s “not the only compassionate person in the Army. I have worked for others.” But she’s never worked for a woman. “I’ve been coached and mentored by men my whole life,” she said. “I never worked for a female, they weren’t there.”
Dunwoody, on the other hand, is grateful for the women who came before her. She also recognizes that she serves as a role model for younger women in the military, as more women are advancing to more senior positions. She Is definitely moving up the ranks but now not for herself but also for younger females.
“It just helps everyone to know what the art of the possible is,” Dunwoody said, “and that they can continue to move up the ranks.”
This is women's empowerment in its true meaning. She is the true example of moving up the ranks for females in the best possible way.