The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Forum will salute Dahlgren women
ONE WOMAN was advised by a female superior not to say “Yes, sir” to men because it might make it harder for women to gain respect.
Another was invited to take part in a “special” contest among administrators that was similar to horseshoes, except that the items to be tossed were cow pies. She suspected it was designed to determine if she could really be “one of the boys.”
The road for women working at the Navy base at Dahlgren over the past few decades could be rocky and winding—from WAVEs crunching numbers on calculators in the early computer age to women visiting ships with no facilities for females.
Maybe that’s why it’s all the more encouraging to hear that the majority view among a number of women interviewed by the Dahlgren History Project is so positive.
Some still feel they have to prove themselves more than do men. But most lauded the base for its efforts to increase diversity. They cited the support they’ve felt during their careers. And, as one put it, at Dahlgren, “What counts is what you can bring to the table, regardless of your gender.”
Those are some of the sentiments I’m finding as I prepare to moderate a forum Wednesday night at the University of Mary Washington’s new campus at Dahlgren. The discussion among four female veterans of the Navy base will coincide with the opening of the Dahlgren Heritage Museum’s exhibit at UMW on “Women in Science and Technology at Dahlgren.”
As the president of the foundation that is collaborating with the Navy on the museum, and as a native of the base, I’m learning new things about what it’s like to be in a distinct minority when it comes to gender.
In the interviews conducted by the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division’s History Project, there are references by women to being “the only female” in the office or “one of a handful.”
Yet, as their numbers in science and technology increase, women at Dahlgren already have demonstrated the impact they’ve made.
Ann Swope, who will participate in the panel discussion, is the chief of staff at NSWCDD.
Dr. Elizabeth D’Andrea, who now works at the Office of Naval Research in Washington, served as manager of the railgun program, one of Dahlgren’s most noteworthy new initiatives.
Sheila Patterson, with a technical degree from the U.S. Naval Academy, became the first female commander of NSWCDD in 2007. Laura DeSimone, formerly of Dahlgren, chaired a board that reviews all weapons for the Navy and Marine Corps before they are deployed.
Others have been involved with everything from counter-narcotics work to biochemical research to rocket propulsion.
As a guy whose knowledge of science extends about as far as the oil stick in my car, I just hope I don’t get lost amid all the science.
To register for the 4 p.m. reception and 5 p.m. program, which is free and open to the public, go to dahlgren.umw.edu.
Ed Jones: 540/374-5401