2021 Honoree

Michele Corning

SMSGT, Senior Training Consultant, United States Air Force Recruiting, U.S. Air Force

“…accepting and empowering other women. Taking their hand and lifting them up. Those are what I feel are the most important for a Power Woman.”

What qualities do you feel makes for a Power Woman?

I think the qualities that for any power woman…is having the confidence in herself but also accepting and empowering other women. Taking their hand and lifting them up. That is what I feel is one of the most important qualities for a power woman. Is for empowering every woman.

Do you believe that there is any gender specific role for women to play in the COVID-19 pandemic? Do you believe that the response of the covid 19 pandemic highlights and emphasizes the natural resilience of women? How do you feel in the role that woman played during COVID-19?

We [women] also have that logical aspect and the emotional aspect when it comes to leadership. So we are able to look at both sides versus just one side. So when it comes to COVID-19, we can understand each other’s aspects and then be able to target what needs to be done emotionally, logically, to still get the job done and still ensure that we’re leading the people properly because we know both sides. And truly understand. From a woman to working full-time, having children, juggling all the things and sometimes we may even feel a little rundown, we’re still there doing it because it can’t get done if we are not there partaking in it and ensuring it gets done.

With all of the different issues one could focus on, how do you balance your efforts in pursuit of gender equality? Is it the global approach or specific issues that you are passionate about?

I would say both. For me it’s global and the issue that I am passionate about is taking care of everyone. And to that, that is global. So it would only make sense why when I am looking at gender equality, I am looking at all aspects. Unfortunately there are things that I cannot control with every you know certain parts of countries however I can do my part to ensure that I am being gender equality and ensuring that everybody has the chance regardless of where they came from and what gender they are.

Can you tell us a short story and wish you encountered any kind of block to do your gender?

I would probably say it was the first time I was up for my current promotion as a senior master sergeant. There were certain decorations that I was appointed to, however the individual that was in charge of me and that I moved onto in my next division, had just delayed the process knowing that that decoration wouldn’t make it to the board on time. However I found out that that was the case. I did approach the individual and let the individual know that that is not okay and I’ve learned from that situation. But I also moved forward and knew that okay what I needed to do but I didn’t become bitter. I looked at it as may be universally what they saw, maybe they felt that I wasn’t quite ready and so then it helped me reflect that even though I know I’m ready, the fortitude of my readiness is not as strong as it needs to be and so it allowed me to further grow and enhance my ability. So by the time I did get promoted in two years, I definitely was ready from what I was given To learn from and so forth. But I can’t say that the Air Force per se it just sometimes is the individuals in the higher positions.

Do you think asking about previous salary requirements and a job interview contribute to the pay gap between men and women? And should we push for more nationwide bans?

So to answer the latter question, there should absolutely be nationwide. It shouldn’t be them versus us or whichever. It should be whatever you’re applying for, that is the salary regardless of your gender. The other part is no. I don’t believe that if the employer asks for a previous salary and then it’s like oh okay looks like will give you this. I don’t believe that is the reason for the gap. Absolutely not. There’s a gap because there is inequality when it comes to men versus women in the job sector.

What can we do to continue to support and enhance the growth and presence of women in high profile positions? What do you feel that we need to do in order to enhance that?

So the most important thing that we need to do is and I know the Air Force, I can’t speak for the other branches, but the Air Force is definitely wondering why when it comes to leadership roles there are less women. And we are of course hiring and looking. I’m trying to hire more women and show why you can be a leader as a woman. But one thing that we’re doing, even in my own quadrant, is we are encouraging women that are about to approach the leadership position because they’re important. And why it’s necessary to continue on if that’s what they want to do….So it’s talking to these women and encouraging them that they can. But then it’s asking them the same question: why are you leaving this potential role? Why are you not moving forward, and I understand that you can’t always impact and hope to have them go into leadership positions. But if you ask the question and ask them what they are not saying, you will then as a leader we can understand what we need to do better. And that’s what we’re doing right now.

What is the best piece of advice that you’ve ever been given?

The best piece of advice that I’ve ever been given is never change. And I mean I’ve adjusted and I’ve improved, but I’ve never changed me–who I am.

What is your favorite book, fiction or nonfiction?

I would have to say The Golem and the Jinni.

What do you most value in friends?

The thing I value most in friends is trust. That is the number one thing. Trusting that they will always have your back. Trusting that they will always be completely candid with you. From the superficial “hey you got you know food on the side of your mouth or just food in your teeth” or something like that. Or to the point of being like “hey you’re being a real jerk right now”. And knowing that you can accept it and be like okay you’re right, thank you. I appreciate it. That is what I find trust to be and true communication. That is what I value and friendship.

Which trait do you find the most uncomfortable about yourself?

I can be very nosy. And sometimes I don’t realize that not everybody wants to tell you their business. But to me if I’m like hey where are you from or just trying to bring up conversation to avoid that awkward silence, then I’ll just start asking questions but I guess my questions could be very personal but I think that’s just how you get to know someone. But it’s being nosy. I think it’s probably the most uncomfortable because I don’t need to know everything. Even though I want to know everything.

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