DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – March 8 is International Women’s Day, and 2 NEWS is recognizing local women who helped break barriers.
One Miami Valley woman is paving the way for female leaders, both in the military and in education.
After a 26-year Air Force career, retired Col. Cassie Barlow continues to aim high.
“You can’t but ask yourself, ‘Boy how did I end up here? And what gives me the right to do this job?'”
If those questions ever raised doubts — you’d never know.
“You really have to understand who you are, be comfortable in your own skin and be yourself,” says Dr. Barlow, Interim-President of SOCHE.
On day one — the then 22-year-old Georgetown grad summoned that self-assurance and took charge of several dozen airmen.
It was her first of 13 assignments spanning the globe and moving up in leadership ranks, ultimately landing at Wright-Patt to command one of the country’s largest air base wings.
Even in a field dominated by almost 80 percent men, Barlow says the Air Force helped propel her success.
“It was about earning trust as you moved through the ranks. And I felt like I was given opportunities, not as a woman, but I was given opportunities to lead just as a leader,” she said.
The Colonel also took advantage of academic opportunities, attending management technical school, earning three master’s degrees, and a PhD.
With the titles and experiences came even more military and STEM leadership roles — often as the only woman in the room.
“I had to train myself over time to not look around the table and recognize that I was the only woman at the table, because it really didn’t matter,” she says.
While her gender may not have mattered to her teams, she recognizes it does matter to future generations.
“Women are then able to see what’s possible for them if they see women in those roles. If they see women CEOs and women leaders, they can then look at those women and say, ‘Oh, I can do that too.'”
This March, Barlow is taking over as interim president of the Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education.
There, she plans to continue expanding education and employment opportunities for future leaders.
“There’s definitely opportunity out there. And it’s a matter of setting your sights and setting high expectations for yourself. And there’s no doubt in my mind that there’s a lot of opportunity for young ladies out there,” she said.