Lessons from Florida’s 1st Female Lieutenant Governor
Ninety-four years after women’s suffrage in the United States, intelligent and well-educated females still battle stereotypes, discrimination and, sometimes, their own fears, when working in male-dominated professions.
And there are still many of those! From the famously boys-club cultures of Silicon Valley to construction and the automotive industry, guys remain the standard in many industries – that also tend to pay better than female-dominated fields.
“Sure, women face challenges, some of them pretty unpleasant, when they’re the minority in their chosen profession,” says Jennifer Carroll, (www.jennifercarroll.com), the first female – and first black — lieutenant governor of Florida under Gov. Rick Scott, and a retired U.S. Navy lieutenant commander.
Carroll, who shares her experiences in her new autobiography, “When You Get There,” says what she learned in childhood and in the military helped her to not only succeed, but to be strong and confident through even the most difficult times.
“When you’re struggling, you never think you’ll be better off because of it, particularly if you’re a good person who’s trying to do well,” she says. “You learn to adjust and come out of these trying times stronger and more prepared for what’s truly intended for you.”
Here are some of her suggestions for women working in male-dominated companies and industries.
- Don’t neglect or fail to nurture family bonds – they will sustain you through anything
Carroll married Nolan Carroll while she was in the Navy, and raised three children and cared for her aging parents even as she rose through the ranks and then entered politics. Throughout, she made sure family was her priority.“My husband has stayed true to the core through all the ups and downs we’ve experienced,” she says. “He’s secure in who he is, which has brought me a sense of strength and helped me ascend to whatever levels I chose.”
Likewise, her children – Nolan, Nyckie and Necho – are staunch supporters no matter what happens.
Through the most difficult times, their main concern has always been, “How is mommy feeling? Is she okay?”
- Have a deep and trusting faith in God
“I believe God will always make a path through the storm. I believe you have to go through the storm to get to what’s waiting on the other side and afterward, you’ll be stronger and more capable of handling whatever comes,” she says.That faith, that God had a purpose for even the most seemingly unjust and unkind actions of others, helped Carroll when emotions including depression, anger and betrayal threatened to overwhelm.
“You have to trust that and when you do, you don’t allow yourself to engage in behaviors that conflict with your values,” she says. “You maintain your self-esteem, your self-respect, and the respect of those who know and love you.”
- Be a team player
Her 20 years in the military taught Carroll, who’d been a loner as a child, the value of being a good team player. Despite her difficult two years working as the second in command to a governor who severely limited her role, Carroll persevered in working to support him, including pursuing votes and legislation using her talents and the strong relationships she had built as a legislator.“Some people might ask, ‘Why did you keep trying to help him when it was clear he didn’t want your help?’ It may appear futile, if you focus only how things ended,” she says.
But that’s not her focus
“I can look back and be proud of what I was able to accomplish during my time in office,” she says. “Just one example: As Chairwoman of Space Florida, I was instrumental in creating thousands of new private sector, space and aerospace-related jobs. I helped transition Florida into a post-space shuttle era, so we could remain the space activity capital of the world. I managed a program that enabled 15 new or growing aerospace-related programs to thrive. They’ll bring us nearly 2,000 jobs over the next five years.
“I’m very happy about what those accomplishments, and others, mean for my state.”
About Jennifer S. Carroll
Jennifer Carroll is the former lieutenant governor of Florida and a retired decorated lieutenant commander/aviation maintenance for the U.S. Navy. She was a member of the Florida House of Representatives from 2003 to 2010 and was the executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs. Currently, she is a Political Analyst for WJXT CHANNEL News4Jax Jacksonville, Florida, and Senior Adviser for Global Digital Solutions, Inc. (GDSI) in West Palm Beach, FL. Carroll holds an MBA, among other academic degrees. She and her husband, Nolan, have three children.