Women Dominate NSO Top Ranks

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Women play a vital role in the field of corrections, a historically male dominated profession. However, unlike many law enforcement agencies, the NSO has a strong female representation in its leadership. In fact, both Lieutenant Colonels and four of nine Captains are female. We recently sat down with our female leaders and in this article they share advice on excelling in this profession and reflect on the obstacles they faced as they rose through the ranks.

(Q) What advice would you give women with an interest in leadership roles within our organization?

Lt. Col. Bennett: Look for mentors. There is always someone who knows more than you. Don’t be afraid to pick their brains. Surround yourself with positive people. For me, it is very important for females, especially African American females to see someone ho looks like them in leadership positions. It lets them know that these positions/goals are attainable.

Lt. Col. Grizzard: Always be true to yourself!

Capt. Crocker:  Never give up if your goals are to make rank. Never compare yourself to others and be that supervisor you would want to work for.

Capt. Edwards: Don’t think it’s just a man’s world in Law Enforcement. It’s about strong morals and honesty that need to be demonstrated by leaders, regardless of gender. Don’t be afraid. You can do anything you put your mind to, you just have to WANT it.

Capt. Richardson: Don’t believe that just because you are female you aren’t strong enough, smart enough or brave enough to overcome any obstacles placed in front of your path to leadership.

Capt. Shelton: Observe and take notes from a great mentor.

(Q) What is an important leadership lesson you have learned throughout your time at NSO?

Lt. Col. Bennett: When others doubted me for whatever reason, I put my head up, put my best foot forward, and let my work speak for itself. I always believed in doing the right thing when no one is looking, and to always lead by example.

Lt. Col. Grizzard: There is a balance between holding someone accountable and being an advocate for your staff. It is possible to do both.

Capt. Crocker: If you make a mistake, own it and accept and appreciate the feedback.

Capt. Edwards: Women are different than men. It is a fact, accept it. Don’t try to be ‘one of the guys.’ Be yourself. By trying to be someone else, you will only impede your own success. Don’t overextend yourself to prove you are invaluable or worthy. Believe in yourself and always give the best of yourself.

Capt. Richardson: As women we have the ability to multi-task and sometimes have the urge to complete a task that we assigned someone else, because we feel they either are taking too long, or might not do it correctly,  DON’T complete that task, others need to do their own assignments so they can also learn.

Capt. Shelton: Learn everything you can about your department. Know that you don’t have to be rude or condescending to be a good leader. Inspire others and remember the mission.

 (Q) Did you have any females inspire you to pursue leadership roles? Who were your mentors?

Lt. Col. Bennett: My number one female role model is my mother.  She’s the one who instilled those important traits of empathy, respect for others, and our very own motto within me.  She sacrificed a great deal for me and my siblings.  I learned throughout life that making sacrifices is one of the main ingredients to success.  Jackie Conley Smith who’s currently the Assistant Superintendent at the Norfolk Detention Center and a very good friend of mine, and inspired me to pursue leadership here at the NSO.  As a previous Major here at the NSO, I was inspired by her knowledge in every department she was assigned to.  I was inspired how she was a stickler for P&P, the rapport she had with her colleagues and the way she dealt/handled the inmates in her care.

Lt. Col. Grizzard: During my employment, I have worked for some amazing leaders, all of them were men. I have also worked for leaders that I did not want to be like. I have taken the good from each of them to help me along my journey. I remember what it was like to be a deputy in the jail. It has been a lot of work to determine what a good supervisor is about and how I want to follow in their footsteps. I have made mistakes but I strive to fix the errors and be a leaders that is respected and be someone whose staff knows will always be there to help.

Capt Crocker: My mother. She was awlays my biggest cheerleader and inspired me to never stop trying.

Capt. Edwards: I see the women who have risen up in the ranks way before me, and I feel like they were up against a lot more then, than I am now.  Times have changed, not fully, but certainly they have changed.  Becky Weaver was a true inspiration for me.  She didn’t put up with anyone’s crap.  She was a bull in a china shop, but only when necessary.  She stood by what she believed and never backed down.  I met her early in my career and it was a tremendous loss when she left us.  She Is missed by many.

Capt. Richardson: My mom would be my female mentor in leadership.  She was able to be a military wife, raise two children, enroll and complete her Associates degree as a Registered Nurse and become the Charge Nurse of the NICU unit, without much outside help.  I know she believes that if you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything, and has instilled this in me and I believe that I can teach others this by leading by example and making sure they have all the tools they need to achieve their goals.

Capt. Shelton: I was inspired by my mother, aunts, teachers, and supervisors. You never forget the people who take the time to give you knowledge.

How long have you been with the NSO?

Lt. Col. Bennett: 24 years.

Lt. Col. Grizzard: Almost 27 years.

Capt Crocker: 21 years

Capt. Edwards: 21 years

Capt. Richardson: 17 years

Capt. Shelton: 24 years

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