The U.S. Army Special Operations Command conducted a study, Breaking Barriers: Women in Army Special Operations Forces (WiA), 40% of women who participated mentioned the challenge of gender bias in the workplace. The original intent of the WiA survey was to focus on breaking down barriers for all service members; this led to the findings of three critical initiative pillars affecting female Soldiers, health and readiness, modernization, and the number one issue of mentorship and sponsorship.
Currently, the D.C. Army National Guard (DCARNG) has 1,198 Soldiers, 28.5% are women.
To tackle the mentorship and sponsorship barrier, the District of Columbia National Guard (DCNG) established its first Female Mentoring and Morale Program (FMMP) chapter, which is the second Army National Guard women's mentorship program throughout the National Guard. Capt. Mayauda Bowens, the co-charter member and Planning Coordinator for the D.C. FMMP chapter, said the program provides a safe space for leadership, development, and mentorship.
“We have to start seeing ourselves as a sisterhood,” said Capt. Bowens, “The first step is showing, we are the people we have been wanting.”
Capt. Bowens, the Joint Logistics Support Operations Officer in the DCARNG, and also the co-charter of the D.C. FMMP, said she saw a need for a women’s mentorship program coming up through the ranks. “We want to provide empowerment,” she said. “This is a support network; we aspire to change the culture where people don't feel like they have to suffer in silence.”
Warrant Officer 1 Latricia Haywood, Property Book Officer for direct reporting units in the DCARNG, who is also a co-charter member of the D.C. FMMP, initially expressed to DCNG leadership the need for a women’s mentorship program after becoming inspired by her attendance at Warrant Officer Candidate School in May of 2023. “That was the first time in my career I felt invested in. The amount of classes and mentorship they put right back into you is endless,” WO1 Haywood said. “If I could bring back this logic to the D.C. Guard, it would be so beneficial.”
The FMMP is a new initiative under the Army’s Women’s Initiatives Team (WIT). The Secretary of the Army approved the FMMP officially in December of 2022. The DCNG FMMP will join 37 other active-duty Army FMMP chapters.
Sgt. Kymberli Segarra, a mental health specialist for FMMP, said the FMMP D.C. chapter was created to build trust and remind people they have support.
“You don't have to share your struggles or what you are going through necessarily. You can just be there to listen and advise others,” Sgt. Segarra said. “You may not know or think that you are helping, but just being present and making yourself available – helps.”
FMMP’s membership is inclusive of male Soldiers, Airmen, and civilians. An inclusive effort encourages male Soldiers to join to understand how to become an ally in supporting female Soldiers with the necessary resources.
Capt. Bowens said that although the military culture is changing slowly, they will continue to encourage service members to join FMMP, “you have to be the change you want to see,” she said.