Top 5 Career Tips for Army Female Officers and NCOs

This topic made me stop and think. I have always been used to functioning in mostly male groups. I chose to play on boy’s sports teams until they made me join the girl’s teams. I always naturally gravitated towards being friends with boys growing up and didn’t have as many girl friends.

The Army seemed like a natural fit for me, given it is still a male dominated field. I am pleasantly surprised by all the female friends I have made over the years, because it wasn’t something I expected to happen.

I think most tips on being successful apply to male and female officers alike, but here are my five tips for being a female officer or Soldier in the Army.

# 1 Have a sense of humor – I don’t mean to joke around all the time and not get any work done. Soldiers love knowing their officers are human beings too, and willing and able to laugh at themselves and the world around them. We aren’t robots and shouldn’t act like them!

# 2 Grow a thick skin – This is true for everyone, but particularly useful for females. I am the only female officer in the squadron (I don’t count the cadets), and while that doesn’t bother me, some people might have a hard time with something like that. Not all of my peers jump to be my friend or a helping hand, and I have had to get used to that.

# 3 Focus on your job – That being said, if you focus on your job, usually everything else falls into place. Being an officer is a little more lonely than being enlisted, but that’s the way it is. I struggled with that at first, because I was always used to being around a lot of my peers all the time, but it radically changed when I commissioned.

# 4 Find additional duties that suit your talents and passions – If you’re like me and serving in a traditional slot for a LT and in a traditional branch like Quartermaster, seek out additional duties that you will enjoy doing and set you apart. Some additional duties will get handed to you whether you want them or not (like Squadron FSO and UMO, for example). I have sought out training for Master Resiliency Trainer and am going to the Casualty Assistance Officer/Notification Officer course. I think that duty would be a huge honor and responsibility that is outside of my normal scope. If we deploy, I would seek to do public affairs for the unit/squadron as another additional duty in order to build on things I already like to do.

# 5 Be a mentor to other female Soldiers – Mentoring can happen between anybody, but there will be females that seek you out for guidance because you are a female too. I have a few very special mentors that are male, but I also consider myself lucky to have a few female mentors that I can look up to as I continue my journey. They provide a different kind of mentoring that my male mentors just can’t.

Final Thoughts

Being a female officer is a unique opportunity for mentoring and setting a good example. Break down the barriers, and don’t be afraid to be yourself.

What are your thoughts?  What are some of the best career tips that you could offer female officers?  Leave a comment below to let us know what you think.  I look forward to hearing from you.


chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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9 thoughts on “Top 5 Career Tips for Army Female Officers and NCOs”

  1. If I had to chime in with a few of my own tips, I would say this.

    # 1 Decide what you want. The first thing you should do is decide what you want with your career. Where do you see yourself in five years, ten years, or twenty years?

    # 2 Develop a plan. Once you know what you want to accomplish in your career, the next step is to develop a plan. Make a list of what jobs you need, what schools you need, and what skills you need to develop or improve.

    # 3 Find a mentor. The next step is to find a mentor. Find someone, preferably a female, who has accomplished what you are trying to accomplished. Learn from their mistakes and find out what they recommend.

    # 4 Work on your professional development. Get better every day. Never stop learning. Take classes. Read books. Attend seminars. Master your craft. Become technically and tactically proficient.

    # 5 Take the tough jobs. This might be my best advice. Don’t play it safe. Take jobs that no one else wants. Take the jobs that are hard and time demanding.

    Those are by tips of career advice for female officers. Does anyone else want to chime in?

  2. A sense of humor can definitely make even the toughest of circumstances more bearable. It's easy to take some things too seriously, and that will wear you down in the long run. I like Justin's comment regarding not overcompensating as well. Female soldiers do not have to become guys to be successful, and over-doing it can create a permanent and unfortunate brand. It is human nature to be our own worst enemy sometimes, and the road ahead will be tough enough. Focus on the job, learn it and do it well.

      1. Candace Ginestar

        Honestly Chuck, I struggle with differentiating tips for women specifically. Everything is applicable to both genders, that’s what I believe.

        I suppose what some women need to realize is they need to be aware of their surroundings. The reality is, the military is still a male-dominated field. This isn’t to say that women don’t make a difference with their service – we all can do a great job. The point is that, since being an officer also means dealing with politics, we will get judged by some people. That is just reality, and we need to be aware of how we present ourselves.

        1. I’ve worked with some tremendous female officers during my military career. If there is one thing I noticed with a lot of female officers is that a lot of them are put between a rock and a hard place when it comes to have kids and having a career. It can be tough and it’s something that male officers don’t have to deal with. I think you can do both, but I know it’s a challenge.

          What do you think, Candace?

  3. Great post, Candace.

    I’ve worked with lots of female officers in my career (I was a combat service support officer) and I have to tell you that some were great and some were horrible, just like the male officers.

    If I had to give any female officer a piece of advice, it would be to “master your craft.” If you are good at what you do, people will notice. Be technically and tactically proficient and you will never have to worry about a male officer pulling out the “female card” or treating you differently.

    Thanks for sharing your tips.


  4. Nice post, Candace. I think you make some good points. While I do not have extensive experience working with females in my service (i.e. Combat Arms), I have trained with them. One thing I noticed, and hopefully can add to this post, is that some female officers over compensate for being a women. What I mean by that is, that a lot of female officers act like hardasses and/or difficult/tough because they FEEL as if they do because they are female Officers. My advice to anyone, male or female, comes from Patton when he said, “Always take your job seriously…never yourself.” I think this is very true, particularly in this case. Just do your job to the best of your ability. If you do your job, take it seriously, and people will take you seriously, whether you’re a male or female. Just my thoughts…

    1. Candace Ginestar

      I completely agree with you, Justin. I don’t like when people use their gender to get out of work, or as a jumping off point to overcompensate, as you stated. You and I, for example, probably have a different style of leadership. That doesn’t make either of us wrong, and I shouldn’t try to be like you because you’re a man. Generally what I notice is that some women feel as though they have to act a certain way. I wish they didn’t feel it was necessary, because it’s not. There are four cadets in my unit right now, and they are all different. The thing I try to impress upon them is to take the best parts of who they are and act on it. Don’t try to be best friends with your Soldiers, and focus on your job. The rest should follow.

    2. I agree with you Justin. Take pride in your job. Don’t come across like you have something to prove. Do your best and let your actions speak louder than your words. And whatever you do, don’t have “attitude” or “chip on your shoulder.”

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