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Raising the future generation of allies

  • Published
  • By Capt. Ieva Bytautaite
  • 20th Air Force Public Affairs

Earlier this month, as I participated virtually in the Women’s Air and Space Power Symposium, I experienced a multitude of thoughts and emotions.

I laughed.

I cried.

I learned.

I was inspired to dream bigger, reach higher and do more to help make the future for our service and all Airmen, men and women, better.

The sessions, sponsored by the DAF Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Women’s Initiative Team, did more than inspire; they also provided me and my fellow participants with tangible tools to become more effective as makers of change. From how to properly put together and format a staff summary sheet so a proposed change can most effectively navigate the bureaucratic process of approval, to listening to gut-wrenching stories about resilience and persistence through tough times – all the stories I heard left me wanting to be better and do better; to look at more effective ways to lead and serve; to push for meaningful change even when encountering obstacles.

But another, more personal, thought also crossed my mind as I watched the conference from home with my one-and-a-half-year-old son, Declan. He enthusiastically pounded my laptop keyboard as he “listened” to the session titled ‘We Stand on the Shoulders of Giants’, a look of sheer joy and excitement on his face.  I knew that he didn’t understand a word the panelists were saying, but it made me think of his future and the world he is growing up in.

Women’s rights have come a long way, but although there are still many changes we need to make to achieve true equality and eradicate sexism and racism, I hope to raise my son to see everyone around him as equally able to reach their full potential.

I hope to raise him to not be afraid of following a girl as the leader; to call her a ‘leader’ instead of ‘bossy’.

I hope to raise him to be respectful and understand consent; to get away from the decades-old saying ‘boys will be boys’ and instead chant ‘boys will be good human beings.’

I hope that one day he can be a mentor, a student, a follower of many amazing women and lift up those who need it, and be an ally, believer and supporter.

As I watched Declan giggle and smile and finally lose interest in the laptop and get occupied by the TV remote, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of empowerment that the future is right here in front of me … that I have the ability and privilege to help raise the future generation of allies.