Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of stories on the inductees into the Brookfield Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame.
A couple of years ago, Elizabeth Drummond was in Europe when a former boss told her she will never be happy until she gets married and settles down.
Although Drummond was taken back by the old-school prejudice, it reminded her that, for some people, old habits die hard, and that she has not taken the easy road.
“I didn’t mean to keep going into male-dominated worlds, but that’s kind of just the path I ended up on,” Drummond told a group of Brookfield High School girls on Sept. 20.
That path has led her from twirling while a Brookfield student, to studying history in college, to traversing the worlds of politics and finance, both of which are full of male egomaniacs, she said.
Drummond is a professional staff member for the U.S. House’s Armed Services Committee.
“If it’s in the army and the army uses it, whether it’s body armor or bullets or missiles or radios or helicopters and tanks and things, I look at it and make sure the program is working and that it’s working well for our soldiers and that we’re spending the right amount of money on it,” said the resident of Arlington, Va. “If the laws need changed, I go back and talk to congressmen and make sure they know what the problems are and rewrite the laws so it now works.”
To do her job, “I get to go ride in army helicopters,” Drummond said. “I get to go to gun ranges and test bullets, and I get to go out onto ships and visit troops, whether they’re in Hawaii or Alaska or Israel or England. I get to do cool stuff like that.”
But, all that “cool stuff,” doesn’t assure her respect.
“I get these generals that come in, sit across the table from me and don’t look me in the eye because my boss is right next to me,” Drummond said. “One of the tactics I subtly employ is to remind them, when I look after this program and I look at how much money it’s gonna have for next year, I’ll be sure to take that into consideration. Immediately, they perk up and they (realize), ‘Wait, she’s the one in charge. I gotta talk to her, now.’”
Drummond, who formerly worked for Bloomberg LP, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems and the Navy League of the United States, said she wanted to talk specifically to girls to offer tips on “How do you make your voice heard in a room that doesn’t look like you, and doesn’t sound like you, doesn’t see the world like you.”
One tip she offered was to know your facts.
“Go in and be the smartest person in the room,” said Drummond, a 2003 Brookfield graduate. “To get there is hard. To get there, it means sacrificing some time and, frankly, time with friends, time with family, money, and it’s worth the investment because, in the long term, you’re gonna be in the driver’s seat. You’re gonna be in charge of your own destiny.”
To be in charge of your own destiny, “don’t be all of the things men like to bring us down for: being too emotional, being too crazy,” Drummond said.
“Go in there and fight to win,” she said. “Don’t fight to not lose. Here’s what I mean by that: Fight to win means you gotta keep your own self in mind – look out for number one. We want to be more of people pleasers. We want to make it so that, if I win and someone else has to lose, I’ll feel bad for them. You gotta be strong and defend your territory and go after it. Don’t make any apologies. We, as women, like to apologize for bizarre things.”
There are others like her out there, and finding female mentors has been a key to her success, she said.
“Bottom line is, don’t underestimate yourself. Don’t sell yourself short. The only person that’s gonna want it in life for you is you. Don’t depend on anybody else to prop you up – that’s guys included.”