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Commander speaks about empowerment, overcoming adversity

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Tara Stetler
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Col. Leslie Maher, 375th Air Mobility Wing commander, recently shared how she overcame adversity throughout her Air Force journey during a women’s discussion circle called Lean In.

The Scott Airmen Lean In circle is one of 41,000 Lean In circles around the world, and its monthly group discussions center around the professional and personal growth of women across base.

Maher spoke about how, as an enlisted maintainer, she was one of three women working on a flight line at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, in 1987.

“We really banded together,” said Maher to a packed conference room at the Stars and Strikes Bowling Center. “We knew we had to use each other for support, sharing of experiences and advocacy when our voices didn’t seem strong enough. What we probably didn’t do well was to stop unhealthy environment and actions when they occurred. We mostly just pressed on, not exactly making the environment better for those who followed us. If I could do that over again, I would hope that 20-year-old would have the courage now to say something, do something.” 

Maher also recounted how she felt like she faced an unequal amount of pressure about having children as her career advanced, and she offered words of advice for women going through the same experience.

“As women, we are sometimes defined by our family structure and told we’re more or less of a woman based on that, and that’s not true,” said Maher. “You should be defined by how you face adversity and what you give in service to those around you.”

Maher also encouraged the women to lift each other up.  

“Listen more and ask questions of discovery. When people feel that you value them, they build confidence that allows them to break down barriers,” she said.

The Scott Airmen Lean In Circle meets once a month at the Stars and Strikes Bowling Center to share their stories and experiences to assist others in their lives.

According to Diana Roach, Scott Airmen Lean In facilitator, banding women together is the program’s focus.

“We have found it’s very insightful and inspirational to hear someone’s journey,” Roach said. “You feel less alone in the struggles and challenges you may face, and you may also feel inspired.”