My Role Models Lift Me Up

We are taught as children to identify things that don’t go together. It’s a process that helps us learn important concepts but also opens the gates for harmful assumptions about gender roles and the ability of women to excel, in particular, in fields dominated by men. I remember as a kid playing hospital with two of my then “best friends.” I wanted to be the doctor, but they told me that girls couldn’t be doctors, only nurses or wives. When you are five and have very limited experience, those pronouncements make sense.

I joined the Navy when I was 17 and my parents got divorced. I went to a ship where the majority of the sailors where males. In my MOSS shop, I was one of the first females. It wasn’t very long before I learned some painful lessons about harassment and what happens when you speak out. However, I also recall how other women rallied behind me.

Anything I have accomplished, I owe to strong female role models who paved the way and gave me hope and strength.

My mother, Margarita Nunez, was one of my first role models. She came from Puerto Rico at the age of 43, divorced with four kids and nothing but hope that we could break the cycle. She cleaned parking lots and toilets, and taught us to fight for what we believe and take pride in whatever we do.

My humanities teacher Ms. Eschbach didn’t laugh or try to discourage me when I said I wanted to be a lawyer, even though I didn’t fully understand the financial hurdles I would have to overcome to achieve my dream. She told me that I could do it, and I believed her.

My beautiful and incredibly talented wife, Rebeca, showed me the power of being unapologetic for loving and has given me the most important gift, our twin girls, Emma and Grace.

My work “sisters” are also my role models, as they constantly lift me up and challenge me to do better.

Visibility is important and we need more women, and candidly, unconventional role models—even when it’s hard. I know that when my girls play hospital and one of them says, “I want to be a doctor,” the answer will be which specialty you want. Seeing people that look like us succeeding allows the imagination to thrive, and that’s how dreams come true.