In honor of the upcoming Memorial Day holiday and all those in our community who serve or have served, we salute the brave, like Michelle Janine Howard, who lead our troops forward.

When Michelle Janine Howard was young she dreamed of a career in the military. Her father, a U.S. Air Force master sergeant, encouraged her to look beyond what others might have thought impossible. Howard took that lesson to heart and after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy she achieved many historical firsts. She was:

  • The first African-American woman to command a U.S. Navy ship.
  • The first African-American woman to become a two- and three-star admiral.
  • The first woman to become a U.S. Navy four-star admiral.
  • The first female four-star admiral to command operational forces.

With over 35 years of service to the country, Howard retired last year. In retrospect, she wrote about leadership tenets that helped her rise in rank:

  1. Let go of your biases…

Admiral Howard said, “If you are one of one, or one of a few, it’s easy to become self-isolating and presume that people aren’t engaging with you as they would others. And I realized, boy, that’s going to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. You have to let go of your own biases and negative thoughts and continue to be the successful person you want to be.”

  1. Diverse teams generate better ideas…

As the Admiral in charge of rescuing Captain Phillips from Somali pirates, she put together a diverse task force that included a meteorologist, a Somali interpreter, a former FBI negotiator, Marines and SEAL operators. Each person’s perspective helped inform her decisions and resulted in an exceptional outcome.

  1. Charting new territories is worth the effort…

When Michelle first joined the Navy, her mother had some advice about going into a mostly male world: “There’s not going to be many ahead of you so you have to do the work for those that come after you.” Admiral Howard not only studied up on her job in the Navy but also learned about gender integration, diversity and inclusion, so she could speak intelligently about those issues.



For Those Who Lead The Way

A look back to the working women in the defense industry in 1941 — commentary written by Eleanor Roosevelt and narrated by Katharine Hepburn.


Join us May 17th for our sponsored Women In Defense event: Careful Compliance: HR Experts Discuss Navigating Employee Matters.