Military speaker visits Winthrop, talks about her experience in Coast Guard

Rear Admiral, Sandra Stosz
Rear Admiral, Sandra Stosz, related her Coast Guard experience to the Winthrop experience. Stosz inspired students to “pick something you have a passion for and pursue it.” Photo by Nicole Smith, University Relations

Winthrop was honored with the presence of the Superintendent of the United States Coast Guard Academy, Rear Admiral Sandra Stosz, early Thursday afternoon.  Stosz, the first female leader in any of the five branches of the military, came to give a speech entitled “Women in Leadership in the Military.”

Stosz began her speech by complimenting Winthrop and stating that, “I was struck by how similar Winthrop and the Coast Guard Academy is.”  She went on to explain that the spirit of the two campuses were very alike in that students and cadets both had a passion and pride in what they did that could be felt in the air.

Following her statements on pride and passion, Stosz continued to compliment Winthrop, saying how beautiful the campus was and how polite faculty, staff and even students had been to her.

Shifting gears, the Rear Admiral moved to a brief talk on Winthrop’s history and how far it has advanced the medium of equality.

Stosz brought forward that Winthrop was originally a women’s college that opened its doors to minority students in 1946 only to follow up 28 years later by opening the doors to male students as well.  The first half of Stosz’s speech continued comparing Winthrop and the Coast Guard Academy on values and mottos.

Then, Stosz switched to talking about the advancement of women in society.  “We’ve come a long way,” Stosz started off as she reminded students that it was only 94 years ago that women’s suffrage occurred.  Stosz often spoke on the importance of moving forward while remembering history, reminding students that women did not play an active role in warfare until World War II.

Stosz remains optimistic for the future of equality in service and work, using statistics to illustrate changes and where more effort needs to be applied.  “Currently, about one-third of the coast guard is made up of women.  This is a critical mass when compared to other years,” Stosz said before shifting gears to the world of management.  “60 percent of all undergraduate degrees are given to women and 54 percent make it into entry level jobs, but only 14 percent end up in senior management.”

Stosz remarked that while there could be extenuating circumstances behind the low number of women in senior management, she also addressed that there were four problems.  Each of these problems was brought forward from a survey of 500 men and women.  The survey found that women found that they had no sponsors, no role models, no networks and lifestyle issues that prevented them from taking these spots.

Addressing each of these issues one by one, Stosz proclaimed that a role model or a sponsor didn’t have to be another woman and often times issues arose because people wouldn’t look in the right place or see the signs in front of them.  “Women are judged differently,” Stosz began. “We’re judged for promotion based on our performance where men are judged on their potential. “

Stosz suggested that everyone should actively engage as leaders in all situations.  She remarked that initially she felt isolated as the only female aboard her vessel; however, she slowly integrated herself into groups of males, showing she was interested in what they were doing.

As Stosz’s speech continued, she shifted into the difficulties of having a family and trying to work a demanding senior management position.  “I choose a career over family and didn’t marry until I was 47,” Stosz elaborated by making a small metaphor about a restaurant.

“If you go to a restaurant and look at the menu, you can order everything on the menu, but it won’t fit on the plate and you certainly can’t eat it all.  You have to decide what you want and what is best for you, then maybe come back and try something else.”

By this point, Stosz’s speech was coming to a close, but she reminded the women in the audience that their gender was only a hindrance if they allowed it to be.

Stosz had found that in some situations, she often had an advantage over males because she presented a non-threatening demeanor towards others.

Stosz finished with the example set forward in “Kung Fu Panda,” reminding students that there was no secret to success or happiness.

“Like the fat panda Po, even if no one else will believe in you, you have to believe in yourself.”  Stosz remarked that the best trait for any leader or person is a belief in oneself, otherwise they will surely fail.

Stosz also reminded students that failure was a good thing, so long as the failure was done in extension.  “Fail forward and you will succeed,” Stosz started before ending on a note of personal encouragement.  “Pick something you have a passion for and pursue it.”

Jacob Wingard

Jacob is a former editor at The Johnsonian. He graduated from Winthrop University in Fall 2015.

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