For International Women’s Day this year, I wanted to write a long post about the women in my life. The women that have guided and inspired me; collaborated and conspired with me; helped me, consoled me or lent a sympathetic ear; expanded my mind or touched my heart; the women who have enriched my life and with whom I’ve spent much time; and those with whom I have only crossed paths or whom I have never crossed paths with, at least in person.

As always, I’m a day late and a dollar short.

I would like to say I’ve been too busy working on other projects, well I have, but that’s not the reason. For some reason, the subject depressed me a bit. I was struggling to see the progress we’ve made in the decades since my women’s-libber mother ditched the domestic duties, “burned her bra” and set out into a man’s world.

It’s been more than three decades since I joined the Navy (US). In those days, women had earned “equal rights” but not equal opportunities. Women didn’t go to sea, get assigned to squadrons or fly planes or helicopters. Our regular uniform was a skirt and heels, the higher the heel you wore, the better you did on inspection. Women were quickly discharged from the Navy if they became pregnant and, women Chiefs and Captains were virtually unheard of. Steered into a male dominated rate to meet the Navy’s then “new quotas for women in non-traditional fields”, I had no female role models.

But times have changed and for the better.

According to Navy Personnel Command, Facts & Statistics, 2015:

  • 67,687 women (Officer and Enlisted, Active and Reserve) are currently serving in the US Navy – 20% of the Navy’s forces
  • 98% of all Navy billets are open to females
  • There are 221 operational commands in the Navy that have women assigned, to include ships, squadrons, and expeditionary assignments.  Of these, 210 operational units (95%)have female enlisted onboard.
  • All new surface ships are built from the keel up to accommodate women.
  • Currently one woman serves as a Fleet Master Chief (25%), one women serves as a Force Master Chief (6%), 48 women serve as Command Master Chiefs (6%), and four women serve as Command Senior Chiefs (6%) in squadrons, onboard ships, and on shore duty.
  • There are currently 40 female flag officers – The highest-ranking women in the Navy

But we still have such a long way to go. I was really disappointed to read this 2013 study that was recently making its rounds on Facebook that says “90 percent of female spouses reported being underemployed or overqualified for the positions they hold.”

Brooding a bit about the strides we have and have not made in the last half a century, I procrastinated writing this post until the day was upon me. This morning I forced myself to put fingertips to keyboard and in doing so, may faith was quickly restored.

I tasked myself with doing nothing more than making a short list of the women I’ve crossed paths with in the last few years. I was stunned when I realized how many incredibly intelligent, talented, and amazing women I had the pleasure of working with and getting to know.

Obviously, my mind went first to the women with whom I worked on the Napoli Unplugged Guide to Naples. A truly an enriching collaboration for which I will be forever grateful, I couldn’t have been more pleased to wake up this morning and find we were in the running for another award, having been named 2015 Foreword Reviews INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award Finalist just yesterday. Working with these women has meant the world to me and I have gotten so much more than I’ve given.

  •  Barbara Zaragoza, who authored the Espresso Break and set the wheels in motion for this follow-on to her first work. Harvard educated, Barbara is co-author of the NU Guide, a novelist and an investigative blogger who is blazing new trails in San Diego, all the while being a wife and mom of 3.
  • Erin Romano, web and book designer extraordinaire whose online presence remains shall we say, incognito. Wife and mom of one she juggles family life with running her business and partnering with her husband in his business.
  • My trusty side kick for nearly 2 years who speaks at least four languages that I know of, was a beloved English teacher in Naples and is now back in the UK embarking on a new career, the bubbly and very lovely Holly Willmott.
  • The über-talented artist Kelly Medford who did our creative cartography and painted the cover in plein-air and who supports herself doing what she loves most, painting and teaching all over Italy and beyond.
  • Gillian Longworth-McGuire who pens Gillian’s Lists and as her bio says is a “Rome based blogger, ebook writer, information curator, traveler, coffee and cocktail drinker.”
  • And of course, co-author and cohort in crime, dear friend and a writer and painter in her own right, Penny Ewles-Bergeron aka @ABroadBrush. For our chapter on women who left their mark on Naples history, it was Penny who coined the phrase the Spirited She-Apolitans  – the Sirens, Sybils, Saints and Sovereigns, for which I am as grateful for as I am jealous of.

It was the first She-Apolitan, the siren Parthenope, for whom I named my Indie publishing venture, Partenope Press.

Here then, a very, very short list of the truly inspiring “She-Apolitans” I’ve met on this recent leg of my journey.

  • Ann Pizzorusso, our resident geologist, creator of EarthScape Naples, author of Tweeting DaVinci, my field trip crony and constant companion through the entire book publishing process
  • A writer whose words are like notes on a musical score, Georgie Knaggs, aka The Phraser.
  • The ever sophisticated Carol King, writer, editor and Italophile (or I should say Sicilyphile).
  • Diana Goldin Cervizzi, an amazing wife, mother and friend, she has dealt with hardships no-one should have to deal with and has come out the other side stronger, wiser and still as loving, kind and generous as ever.
  • Tricia Reynolds, a go-getter, networker, wine drinker, friend and the glue that keeps Naples AIWC together.
  • Maria Giovanna di Somma, elegant and articulate friend in the know on all things politics, horses and wine.
  • Tina Carignani, owner of Discover Naples Destinations, speaker of at least 3 languages and who manages to divide her time between her kids, her mother and her business and never drop the ball.
  • The entire staff of women at Centro Italiano – especially Elisabetta, Alessandra, Mariangela.
  • Lucia Marinelli, head of the American Section of the Biblioteca Nazionale, font of knowedge and clandestine urban sketcher.
  • Juliet Ippolito, my knight in shining armor. She continues to help me through some difficult times, navigating me through uncertain waters.
  • Susan Van Allen, Italy lover, author of 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go and more,  speaker and someone with whom you want to do a Golden Week in Italy.
  • Kathy Ayer, accomplished pastry chef, blogger and founder of Travel by Taste with Food Lover’s Odyssey.
  • Kathy Sherak, Director at American Language Institute at San Francisco State University, musician and lover and promoter of Neapolitan music.
  • Nicky Swallow, travel journalist, editor of Time Out guide to Naples & the Amalfi Coast, musician and music festival manager.
  • Gabriella Sannino, Internatonal Marketing Consultant and SEO Strategist who runs circles around people half her age all while keeping you laughing with her slightly sarcastic sense of humor.

And you thought I’d be brief!!!

To all you amazing women out there, Happy International Women’s Day. Celebrate yourselves and celebrate each other. We may have a way to go yet, but look how much we’ve already done!!!