For Cpt. Quin’Shay Perkins, serving in the U.S. Air Force has allowed her the opportunity to lead, learn, and foster change in the male-dominated institution, and now she’s using her career story to empower and encourage other young women to answer the call.
“I went to the Air Force Academy when I graduated high school because I was looking for an opportunity to better myself as an individual and have the opportunity to be a part of change,” Perkins said. “Personally, the military has given me opportunities that I wouldn’t have had if I stayed in a small town in Mississippi. It has allowed me to lead, to make decisions, and to develop discipline that I didn’t have growing up.”
Perkins, an RPA pilot with the U.S. Air Force, recently visited Legend High School in Parker, Colo., to talk to students about the benefits of serving in the U.S. military as a woman.
“[Perkins] talked about the number of females in leadership and the importance of knowing what opportunities are available to them,” Legend High School Athletic Director Daniel Simington said. “By becoming knowledgeable about opportunities, kids can achieve their own personal greatness. Several girls were interested in how to apply to the Air Force Academy.”
Student athletes from the school’s female softball, cross country, track, basketball, swim, volleyball, and soccer teams participated in the leadership and team building sessions with the Air Force recruiter. Ohio-based marketing firm DistrictWON facilitates the program that connects the U.S. Air Force with local high schools.
The teamwork-focused program engages students in a new way and allows the U.S. Air Force to break through barriers and talk with students about their leadership potential within the military and what it could offer beyond graduation.
“The girls were excited to hear about options they have through the Air Force, the Academy and leadership,” Simington said. “Girls shared about setting their goals high and the traits that separate great leaders.”
Critical and diverse thinking are necessary for problem-solving, Perkins said, and women in all fields of interest can bring with them unique perspectives needed to move forward, change social views of what gender norms and roles are, and be part of global and strategic policymaking.
“Without integration and diversity, there is no challenge to the culture that has already been established,” Perkins said. “In the Air Force, every individual comes from a different walk of life to come together for one cause: to protect and defend the Constitution. The different problems that we must solve as a force are solved by the diverse mindsets that we all possess.”
Perkins acknowledged that there is still a “you can’t sit with us” problem that women face, but also feels that the possibility of change is within reach.
“It is our duty [as recruiters] to be the face for young women to believe, because all it takes is one spark of curiosity for one to believe that they are capable,” Perkins said.
According to the 2022 Demographics Profile of the Military Community newly released by the U.S. Department of Defense, the number of service members in all military branches dropped by 2.7 percent over the previous year. However, the percentage of women increased slightly, with those actively serving in the military rising to 17.5 percent in 2022 from 17.3 percent the year prior and those in the selected reserve increasing to 21.6 percent from 21.4 percent over the same period.
Perkins would like to see the data on the number of women in the military continue rising.
“We must come together to teach and inspire our young women to go after their dreams,” Perkins said. “It’s OK to be the first, because that means we are making progress in a world that still tells us we can’t.”