Tinker woman participates in roundtable discussion with Oklahoma governor, foreign businesswomen

  • Published
  • By Brandice J. O'Brien
  • Tinker Public Affairs
Katie Ward sees the bigger picture and wants to be a part of a better tomorrow.

The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Propulsion Sustainment Division F117 program manager recently participated in a roundtable discussion at the Oklahoma Capitol with Gov. Mary Fallin. On behalf of Zonta International's Zonta Club of Central Oklahoma, Ms. Ward spoke with nine women in their mid-30s from Rwanda, Afghanistan and the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women the differences in culture and lifestyles, and developing businesses.

"It was a real eye-opener for me," said Ms. Ward. "When you think about how our military are over in the Middle East and everyone's against us being over there, but they don't see the impact our forces have. It's real and these women really appreciate our military. One even said she owes her life to them.

"And, it's why I'm here," Ms. Ward said. "I'm supporting our warfighters and even though I'm not in a uniform capacity, I'm doing what I can to support them any way I can."
Ms. Ward said she was invited to participate in the roundtable discussion after IEEW officials met her at a fashion show at a local high-end clothing store on July 23. While at the event, Ms. Ward spoke with roughly five women from Rwanda and Afghanistan about what she does for the Air Force.

"They couldn't imagine a woman being able to work as a civilian or even in that capacity," Ms. Ward said. "So they wanted to know a lot and I told them what we do in their countries for both the F117 and Zonta. They thought it was neat the F117 is the engine that goes onto the C-17 Globemaster III, which carries troops to their country of Aghanistan. They were in awe."

The women reportedly asked IEEW officials if Ms. Ward could join the next day's roundtable discussion and an invite was extended.

The roundtable was part of a two-week program in which IEEW officials ventured to the women's home countries and brought them back to Oklahoma to learn business strategies and training. In the Sooner state, the women are assigned to a sponsor, with whom they will live during their stay. Following the training and roundtable discussions, they women attend a summit and their graduation in Dallas.

Ms. Ward said about 80 percent of their businesses are successful when the women return to their home countries.

Governor Fallin asked the women about their specific businesses and what they were doing to advance the status of women in their own countries. She then asked Ms. Ward the latter question. Ms. Ward told her about Zonta.

While Zonta does help women through fundraisers, donations and service programs, Ms. Ward said there's still a lot of work to do. Many young women, particularly students, are unaware of how women are really perceived in the workplace. They don't realize women make a smaller salary or have to combat the stereotypes of why they're working.
"I feel they are so uneducated about where women are," she said. "They think because women can do all this stuff now, they don't see the prejudice that happens every day and they won't see it until they get out into the real world."

Ms. Ward said her goal is to better educate young women and encourage and motivate them to strive for more.

"I want them to keep trying and never give up," she said.

Milo Fogle, Ms. Ward's supervisor, said he isn't the least bit surprised by her efforts or the invitation to the roundtable discussion. He believes she is the right person to further Zonta's cause and help women achieve more.

"Her stewardship and mentoring of women is noteworthy," he said. "Her academic degrees speak to women less fortunate than her; that opportunity exists for them, but it must come with a strong work ethic backed up by having the right experience or the right academic background upon which to build success."

Ms. Ward said she initially joined Zonta after she realized a friend was trapped in a six-year horrific marriage. Her husband physically abused her, until she left approximately one-and-a-half years ago. While she knew she couldn't rescue her friend, she knew she could help fight for the advancement of women through other avenues.

"I'm really passionate about Zonta. I like seeing the change in women's lives," said Ms. Ward who donates roughly 40 hours a month of her time.