Women have come a long way in their fight for equality, and continue to defy stereotypes put on them by society. And while there have been many life-changing moments in history for women, one stands out in the city of Colorado Springs.
Though met with much controversy at the time, the first class of women entered the United States Air Force Academy on June 28, 1976.
The population of women at the academy has since greatly increased, and with this increase many changes have occurred, but nobody can understand that better than the women who have graduated from the academy or currently attend it.
Of the 157 of women first admitted to the academy only 97 of them graduated with the Class of 1980. At a school with about 4,000 cadets they made up about 4 percent of the cadet population their freshmen year.
According to Judith Stiehm, author of Bring Me Men and Women: Mandataed Change at the U.S. Air Force Academy, “All the top brass were opposed to women’s entrance.”
That in itself, according to her, no doubt made attending women feel inferior.
Stiehm also mentioned that “women have to lead differently,” because they must explain things instead of just ordering someone to do something.
A 2009 graduate of the academy, 2nd Lt. Jasamine Pettie, reminisced about her academy days and her current Active Duty experience.
When asked if she felt the academy and the military treat women fairly she stated, “The goal of the academy has always been equality. It’s the people in the institution, who come from all over the world and different walks of life, and have been brought up to believe certain things that sometimes have to be shown or taught that women are at the academy and in the military because they earned the right to be, just like everybody else.
“The standard is the standard and if you make the cut, you stay. If standing next to your peers you happen to shine a little brighter, it should earn their respect and not inspire ill-feelings because of your sex.”
The Class of 2014 is made up of 22.9 percent women, which is a significant increase from 1976. Cadet Fourth Class, Chelsea Renfro, Class of 2014, has seen both the enlisted side of the Air Force and life at the academy. Working in Intelligence and having been deployed before she came to the academy, Renfro feels “everything that (she) has been afforded has been from the military.”
Each year the academy admits more and more women, which shows a continuous effort in their desire to encourage more women to join the military. 2nd Lt. Pettie summed it up when she said that these days it is the people at the academy and the military from all sorts of backgrounds that determine how accepted women feel.