Being a commanding officer in the Navy takes guts. So does being her husband.

In order to aspire to be an excellent leader, you need to have an excellent team.

Just ask Emily Bassett. She has been selected as the commanding officer of one of the Navy's newest littoral combat ships.

We should probably pause there for a moment because she's doing big things.


According to the U.S. Department of Defense, approximately 200,000 women are serving in the military right now. That number accounts for less than 15% of the total armed forces population in the U.S. When it comes to female senior officers, that percentage drops significantly.

But Emily doesn't want a pat on the back for being one of the few women who continue to ascend through the military ranks. Instead she wants to focus on how she arrived there so others can do the same.

Emily thoroughly enjoys her role for the military. All photos from Emily Bassett and used with permission.

Motivation was never an issue for Emily. As far back as she can remember, she knew she had what it takes to be a shot-caller. "When I was growing up I told everyone that I wanted to be an ambassador, a boss, a leader, or something," Emily told me. "Once I got older, the military interested me and became my avenue to leadership."

She received a Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship from Boston University and entered the service directly after graduation in 1999. Once she joined the military, it didn't take her long to notice that there weren't very many people who looked like her. "Women were few and far between," Emily recalled. "Of the few that were there, even fewer lasted beyond the four-year point."

Why?

"Because many of us were looking for partners. Asking a guy you've just met to pack up his career and follow you is usually a non-starter."

Emily knew she wanted a husband, kids, and her career. But making that work would be tricky.

The four-year point is when many in the military make their decision to stay or leave. Emily had to make that decision shortly after meeting her future husband.

Will Bassett was an active duty pilot in the military when they met. Emily remembers the early days of dating as if they happened yesterday.

Emily and Will are all smiles when they're together.

"It was love at first sight," Emily recalled. "I really wanted to continue with my military career, and the reason why I was able to was because we both agreed that it worked for us. One of us wasn't giving up something for the other."

While enjoying a latte at Starbucks, she wrote out her 20-year plan on a napkin and asked Will, "Does this work for you?" He agreed that it did. Wedding bells followed two years later.

Part of their plan included children. Since Emily can be on a ship for months at at time, Will needed to be home full time with their two young children, Edward and Isabel, so he retired as a Navy pilot and became a stay-at-home dad. Again, it was a situation that worked for both of them.

"Will is an 'all-in' dad, completely 100% in," Emily beamed. "He cooks, he cleans, he reads stories, he fixes leaks and remodels bathrooms, he does it all. We would be lost without him."

Emily recognizes that many women can do it alone — single parents balance the demands of kids and work all the time — but it wasn't a part of her plan.

Will loves the bonding time with his kids.

The amount of stay-at-home dads are rising, but does society accept them?

Although the current number of stay-at-home dads in America increased to a total of 2 million, many of these men cannot shed the negative stereotypes that follow them. Emily has heard stories about how stay-at-home dads are ridiculed for "spending their wives' money," or for being unwilling to find "real jobs."

Fortunately, Will is secure enough in himself to be the parent at home while Emily pursues her career in military leadership. Even his kids are secure with it.

"When I went to pick up my 4-year-old daughter Isabel from school recently, one of her classmates asked why I always get her," Will said. "Isabel responded proudly that it's because her mommy is busy taking care of sailors on a ship, and my daddy is here with me. It was a cool moment that demonstrated how much my daughter appreciates the work we do."

Daddy and daughter enjoying a silly moment.

Let's deliver some real talk here — the next time a man is asked how he juggles fatherhood and his career, it will be the first. In heterosexual, two-parent families, moms are always known to step up on the home front. Now that more women are stepping up in their careers, it's long overdue that more of the men in those relationships take over at home to level the playing field.

These career choices can be tough. Luckily, Emily has a support group that's helping her through it.

There aren't very many people like Emily in the military, and finding women in her role to share ideas and frustrations with used to be difficult for her.

Now Emily is a member of a Lean In Circle, which are intimate groups of peers who share a similar bond — and both men and women can participate. Her particular group consists of female leaders in the military, and they enjoy monthly candid conversations about all facets of their careers and life at home. It's become an invaluable part of her growth as a leader and mother.

Emily enjoys a healthy balance between being a mom and a military leader.

"Lean In Circles have been a huge benefit to me for mentorship and professional development," Emily told me. "But what keeps me going back after three years is that my circle is a safe place to discuss leadership challenges and our biases that hold women and mothers back."

Many of the women in Emily's Lean In Circle are moms and their spouses stay at home with the kids, like Will does. It provides more proof that the Bassetts aren't the only ones with a similar family dynamic.

Not every woman pursuing a career needs a partner at home (clearly). But for some families, it works.

Yes, it's possible for our daughters to be CEOs, business owners, entrepreneurs, senior military officers — or whatever their hearts desire. Most importantly, they can tackle these careers while also being amazing mothers. They're not mutually exclusive.

The Bassetts are an amazing family and team.

Families come in all different forms. But it's awesome to see this couple making things work while smashing stereotypes at the same time.

Photo courtesy of Justin Sather
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While most 10-year-olds are playing Minecraft, riding bikes, or watching YouTube videos, Justin Sather is intent on saving the planet. And it all started with a frog blanket when he was a baby.

"He carried it everywhere," Justin's mom tells us. "He had frog everything, even a frog-themed birthday party."

In kindergarten, Justin learned that frogs are an indicator species – animals, plants, or microorganisms used to monitor drastic changes in our environment. With nearly one-third of frog species on the verge of extinction due to pollution, pesticides, contaminated water, and habitat destruction, Justin realized that his little amphibian friends had something important to say.

"The frogs are telling us the planet needs our help," says Justin.

While it was his love of frogs that led him to understand how important the species are to our ecosystem, it wasn't until he read the children's book What Do You Do With An Idea by Kobi Yamada that Justin-the-activist was born.

Inspired by the book and with his mother's help, he set out on a mission to raise funds for frog habitats by selling toy frogs in his Los Angeles neighborhood. But it was his frog art which incorporated scientific facts that caught people's attention. Justin's message spread from neighbor to neighbor and through social media; so much so that he was able to raise $2,000 for the non-profit Save The Frogs.

And while many kids might have their 8th birthday party at a laser tag center or a waterslide park, Justin invited his friends to the Ballona wetlands ecological preserve to pick invasive weeds and discuss the harms of plastic pollution.

Justin's determination to save the frogs and help the planet got a massive boost when he met legendary conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall.

Photo courtesy of Justin Sather

At one of her Roots and Shoots youth initiative events, Dr. Goodall was so impressed with Justin's enthusiasm for helping frogs, she challenged the young activist to take it one step further and focus on plastic pollution as well. Justin accepted her challenge and soon after was featured in an issue of Bravery Magazine dedicated to Jane Goodall.

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When the "Me Too" movement sparked a firestorm of stories of sexual harassment and abuse, the world learned what most women already knew. Sexual abuse isn't rare. And far too often, it is covered up, with the perpetrator being protected while victims are left to languish.

Few stories have made that reality more clear than the uncovering of the years-long, widespread sexual abuse of young female athletes on the U.S. women's gymnastics team by the team's physician, Larry Nassar. The scope of his abuse is mind-blowing. The fact that it was happening all the time, behind the scenes, while the young women he was abusing were in the spotlight winning medal after medal, is shocking.

Now we're finding out how bad the investigations were, how these women were dismissed, ignored, and neglected, how investigators allowed the abuse to continue despite ample evidence that it was happening. That is simply enraging.

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