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International Women's Day with Ricah Quinto

  • Published
  • By Ricah Quinto
  • 8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

There is power in your story and sharing it, because when you share your truth and who you are as a person you can inspire, uplift and encourage others.

We all have different roles we play during different moments of our lives. For me - I’m a sister, I’m a friend, I’m an American who is proud of their Filipino heritage. I love to sing, eat and travel - but just like everyone else when I’m in work mode, sometimes I only get to show a limited view of myself to others.

I realized early in my Federal career who I was, and what I was doing, was not the norm.

In my time working with the U.S. Navy, during briefings I’d be acutely aware of how different I was from everyone else I worked with. Right off the bat, I’m the only civilian - I’m not in a uniform or coveralls, but in business attire. Moreover, I’m one of two females among 12 briefers and one of a handful of people of color.

Walking into rooms, I’d be asked, “who are you married to,” or “who is your husband?” I could have a female partner, or been divorced, or any number of things. The people who asked me those questions made assumptions based on their bias. It never occurred to them I’m a single civilian who came here on my own orders.

I’d like to think just by being me I’m changing and challenging people’s assumptions and biases.

People are often not aware they have a bias. It’s a reflex, developed over years of conditioning. But that doesn’t mean we should accept it, in others or ourselves.

When we allow our initial assumptions to stand out and take hold, without putting intentional thoughts or questions behind it, it’s because of our unconscious bias. We tend to lean towards the familiar, and it’s not always the right answer. Ultimately, if we want to change and stop unconscious bias, we have to actively question our initial thinking and activate critical thinking by asking questions.

Reflection leads to breaking a bias, and it requires you to be comfortable with the idea of getting uncomfortable or seeing someone or a situation in a different light. Try talking to someone you don’t normally talk to, do something you haven’t done before – you’ll discover a whole new world!

One of the ways we can connect with activities and people we don’t normally encounter is through fun. Having fun is such a simple thing but it’s one of the most powerful ways to cut through awkwardness and discomfort with the unknown. And that’s where I come in!

If I had to break down what I do simply, I’d say I’m the ‘Fun Boss.’ I help bring the fun! As a Community Cohesion Coordinator, I am blessed to have a job where I can bring joy to other people. My job is being able to tap in and say “how can I break down some of the barriers in your work center or squadron by helping people have fun?”

When you and your team get together for a team-building event - whether you’re playing dodgeball or you’re painting - you’re able to present a fuller image of yourself, which in-turn creates and enhances connections.

Knowing we all have unconscious biases is half the battle. It means we have the ability to change – but it requires intentional action on everyone’s part. Once we know better, we can do better.

In terms of creating change, I think the most radical thing you can do is just being your authentic self and accepting the authentic selves of others.

I would say to any woman, or person who has faced bias …I would even hold up the mirror and say to myself: “When you encounter situations where something feels off, or someone’s perspective of you doesn’t match your own opinion, it doesn’t mean that’s the only truth, or has to be YOUR truth.”

Try to understand where they’re coming from and why they approach you with a certain bias. Take the time to speak to them, identify the bias and reach a greater truth together. It’s usually not an easy conversation to have.

But from my experience, if we’re able to have fun with each other, to see and show each other’s full selves and not just the masks we wear at work…then the serious conversations we need to have are that much easier. That’s why I’m so proud of what I do and why the title of “Fun Boss” is something I take so seriously.