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Dr. Valerie Martin-Stewart, engineer, author, minister and former professional basketball player, speaks to Quantico personnel about overcoming internal barriers to success March 27 at The Clubs at Quantico.

Photo by Mike DiCicco

Ignore statistics, follow passions, says Women’s History Month speaker

27 Mar 2013 | Mike DiCicco Marine Corps Base Quantico

According to a 2011 report issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce, only one in seven engineers in the country are women.

March is Women’s History Month, and the Department of Defense’s theme for this year is Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Dr. Valerie Martin-Stewart, Quantico’s Women’s History Month speaker, is one of those few female engineers, although she has also played professional basketball, published three books and founded a nonprofit ministry group.

She had some additional statistics for the crowd gathered at The Clubs at Quantico on March 27. For example, she said, there is a direct correlation between how overweight a man is and how much money he earns, while the inverse is true for women. And women’s competency tends to be rated higher the more makeup she wears.

But Stewart didn’t come to talk about the importance of statistics any more than she came to talk about her job as an electrical engineer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Va.

“The secret to success is passion,” she said. “If you want to live a fulfilling life, find out what your passion is and follow it. And if you can get paid for it, that’s even better.”

She rattled off a list of people who had achieved fame by following their dreams even after being told they would fail. “Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper and told that he lacked imagination,” Stewart said. “Don’t let other people define you. Don’t let other people’s fears become your fears.”

The most common barriers to success, she said, are fear of failure, fear of success, procrastination and aiming too low. “Playing small does not serve the world,” she said.

She noted how fish gasp helplessly on land but swim capably as soon as they’re in water. “If you’re gasping for breath, maybe you’re in the wrong environment,” she said.

Thanking Stewart for her presentation, Col. David Maxwell, the base’s commanding officer, admitted to having his own career-oriented fears, saying he often told people he’s still in the military because, “one, I haven’t quite figured out what I want to do when I grow up and, two, I’m afraid to step out into the rest of the world.”

Maxwell noted that this month also marks the 100th anniversary of the Woman Suffrage Parade in Washington, D.C. Stewart, he said, “truly is an example of somebody who’s been able to take advantage of the opportunities that have become available to women over time.”

— Writer:

Marine Corps Base Quantico