Commentary | June 22, 2021

Here's why your unit should host a Women's Focus Group

By OS2 Marisela Horne, CGC Legare

The Coast Guard Cutter Legare recently hosted its first Women’s Focus Group. I hope every woman in the Coast Guard gets to be part of a similar event. We all deserve to know that someone else is there for you – in your corner, cheering you on. 

We were far from home - off the shores of South America - participating in a fast-paced multi-nation exercise. If we could do this, so can you! A Women’s Focus group can be done at any time to create a great platform for conversation and empowerment.

First, we invited 12 women from different rates, ranks and background to gather together, with one simple goal: to support one another. 

The excitement in the room was palpable, and some of us actually felt a bit intimidated by all the diversity and knowledge in the room. Participants from CGC Legare's first Women's Focus Group. Photo by EM3 Hammack

Seaman Sidney Baker kicked things off with an icebreaker to help us all feel more comfortable. I'd encourage everyone to try this exercise when hosting an event like this: Share three things you love about yourself. Funny thing is, we all had one thing in common: STRENGTH.

Petty Officer 1st Class Kimberly Dechmerowski and Petty Officer 2nd Class Sierra Bowman then shared sea stories, which were invaluable for the non-rates who haven't yet had the chance to learn about all the various ratings. 

Our group also worked through two questions designed to get us all talking: 

  1. What female (military/civilian) inspires you? 
  2. Have you ever been told you couldn’t do something because you’re a woman?

Some of us shared experiences that were hard to hear. Many of us had been in those same shoes at some point in our own lives. But most of us realized that we'd had a strong female role model/mentor who'd helped many of us through those times. 

It was humbling to know that we all share some of the same fears and struggles regardless of age, rank or rate.

Throughout our focus group we laughed, cried and most importantly – we empowered each other. 

So to all my fellow Coast Guard women past, present and future: Thank you for trail blazing, standing strong among the ranks and for being courageous.