Working Women: Rear Admiral Wendi Carpenter

Wendi Carpenter

The 2012 Joint Women's Leadership Symposium was the largest gathering of women in uniform in the world. Many of them may not be there if it were not for this woman, Rear Admiral Wendi Carpenter.

Carpenter was one of the first women to go through the Navy's flight program and become a naval aviator.

“Some women talk about there being a glass ceiling, I don't believe it was a glass ceiling so much as it was a maze,” she says.

She said her training was similar to the movie An Officer and a Gentleman. She believes she was in the second year class of women going through the program.

From there, Carpenter became the Navy's first woman aviator to become an admiral. It was a journey not everyone wanted her to take.

“Those kind of individuals who would tell you they were gonna set out to get you kicked out of flight school or Aviation Officer Candidate School, which is really unfortunate because it reflects such a narrow mindset in the abilities of other people,” she says.

So how did she handle it? She says she just brushed it off and kept going.

Carpenter knew when she was very small that she wanted to be a pilot. And she thanks the many male mentors in her life, including her father, a WWII vet, for their guidance along the way. And though she's retired now, Carpenter still thinks about flying once in a while.

“Occasionally, when it's a crystal clear day in October and I see a small aircraft going by, I look up and think about it,” she says.

Now, though, Carpenter is busy breaking down more barriers. She is currently the president of the State University of New York Maritime College. She is the first woman to hold that position.