Major General Jeannie M. Leavitt
Fighter Pilot & Commander, Air Force Recruiting Service
“I had the opportunity to choose the first assignment. Many people warned me not to ask for a fighter [plane] since I was not allowed to fly it.”
In your opinion, what qualities make a “Power Woman”?
In my opinion, a “Power Woman” is someone who is competent, yet compassionate. She is a high performer, yet humble in her success.
With all the different issues one could focus on, how do you balance your efforts in pursuit of gender equality? Is it a global approach or a specific issue that you are passionate about?
Since I am a member of the United States Air Force, I am on a team that believes in gender equity. Salary is based on rank and time in service, not gender. Advancement is based on performance and potential to serve at the next rank, rather than gender.
Do you believe that there is any gender specific role for women to play in the Climate Change debate?
When debating any important topics, I believe it is important to have many perspectives. If you have people with diverse backgrounds and demographics, your debate will be more robust.
Do you believe industry and commerce (and government) should factor into a ten year plan the costs involved in mitigating the effects of Climate Change? (According to an Oxford University supported survey, the total global economic cost would be €200-350 billion per year by 2030. This is less than one percent of the forecasted global GDP in 2030).
I do not believe I have the required depth of knowledge on this topic to recommend specific actions.
If you could have someone else’s job for a day, who and what would it be? Why?
As an Airman, I cannot imagine anything I would rather do. I have the opportunity to do amazing things with amazing people every day!
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
I most identify with our founding fathers because I believe that all people are created equal and all people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I am proud to defend our values of freedom and democracy. We are part of a country where you are not defined by your circumstances at birth. Through hard work, grit, and determination, you can define your path in life.
In what way do you work for women’s power and equality? What do you think is the number one action we as a society can take (e.g. affirmative action)?
As a member of the Air Force, I am in an organization that has gender equity.
Can you tell us a short story in which you encountered a block in the work place and what you did about it?
When I finished pilot training in 1993, I was not allowed to have the assignment I selected due to Department of Defense (DoD) policy. I selected the F-15E and was told I was not allowed to fly that airplane. I made sure my selection was on record so my voice was heard. I then chose an assignment allowed by DoD policy. At the time, I thought I had terrible timing because I believed the policy would change soon. Three months after I finished pilot training, the DoD changed the policy and I was allowed to fly the F-15E.
Do you think that asking previous salary requirements in job interviews contributes to the pay gap between women and men? NY State recently outlawed this practice. Should we push for a nationwide ban?
Fortunately, members of the United States military do not face the issue of gender pay gaps. A person’s salary is completely based on his or her rank and years in service–it does not vary by gender.
“While I was told ‘no’ at the time and chose a different aircraft, the DOD policy soon changed and my assignment changed to the F-15E…”
Have you seen changes in the political landscape for women over the past few years? If so, what are they?
I am not involved in the political landscape, so I am not aware of specific changes.
Was there a defining moment or experience in your life that led you to where you are today? What was it?
A defining moment for me came at the end of my year of pilot training. At the time, the law allowed women to fly fighter aircrafts, but the Department of Defense (DoD) policy did not allow women in any combat roles. As the top graduate, I had the opportunity to choose the first assignment. Many people warned me not to ask for a fighter, since I was not allowed to fly it. I was pretty nervous when I stood up in that crowded auditorium and chose the assignment to fly the F-15E Strike Eagle. While I was told “no” at the time and chose a different aircraft, the DoD policy soon changed and my assignment changed to the F-15E. My hard work during pilot training and bold moves at assignment time opened up quite a few opportunities to me.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
The best piece of advice I have ever been given is to keep a positive attitude and do your absolute best at the job you have right now.
There are many studies that support the idea that a female presence in the board room increases the bottom line and leads to healthier work environments. What can we do to continue to support and enhance the growth and presence of women in high profile positions?
The Air Force values diversity at all ranks.
Is “Education, education and education” one of the top three responsibilities of a civilized society? If so, why is it prohibitively expensive? If not, why not?
I believe education is a top responsibility of a civilized society. The Air Force greatly values education and provides many opportunities for a free education. There is the United States Air Force Academy, the Reserve Officer Training Corps program, and the Community College of the Air Force, to name a few.
What is your favorite book (fiction or non-fiction)?
I have a few favorite books–a common theme is that they focus on positivity and how to be the best version of yourself.
What do you most value in your friends?
I value trustworthiness and honesty.
Which trait do you most deplore in yourself? In others?
I would not say I deplore any trait in myself or others. There are always opportunities for self-improvement. For me, a required trait for everyone is to treat others with dignity and respect.
What do you consider the most over rated virtue?
I do not know of a virtue that I would consider overrated. In the Air Force, we all live and serve with a commitment to three core values: Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do.
“I was pretty nervous when I stood up in the crowded auditorium and chose the assignment to fly the F-15E Strike Eagle.”