Jamie Jones Miller is tired of being the first. Yes, she knows that the defense world and Capitol Hill are male-dominated—she’s worked as a chief of staff for a member of Congress and, now serves as the top lobbyist for the Department of Defense.
“Somebody said to me the other day, like, ‘You could be the first female blah-de-blah.’ And I would like to get to a point where we just don’t say that you could be the ‘first female’ whatever anymore,” Jones Miller said during an interview for POLITICO’s Women Rule podcast.
As a 20-something aide on Capitol Hill, Jones Miller worked on national defense issues. She remembers when it felt like to walk into a committee room filled almost exclusively with men.
“I felt it, I was aware of it, but I never felt different [or] that I was treated differently,” said Jones Miller.
It's the same thing today, even though she has much more responsibility and a complicatedly long title (principal deputy assistant secretary of Defense for legislative affairs).
“I will walk into a room and I am generally one of the youngest and certainly one of the only women in the room. And I observe it, but I am not made to feel that way.”
That awareness, that observation, comes with a sense of responsibility.
“When you’re in the room and you’re at the table and you’re the only woman, it’s hard not to feel the burden of every other woman to perform for them. And so, I do feel that,” said Jones Miller. “Yes, I know I belong at the table; I know I’m supposed to be in the room; I know my stuff; I’m prepared; I will outwork anybody. But I still feel that: ‘Okay, well, people are going to judge this entire class of people on me and my performance.’”
Jones Miller considers that performance carefully.
A former college basketball player, she’s roughly six feet tall. “I take advantage of that,” Jones Miller said. “There are days when I will put on the two- or three-inch heels, because I know that I would like to dominate a space, and I am not afraid of that. I think we all need to figure out what our super-powers are and use them.”
But as anyone who has read “Spider-Man” comics—or has even a peripheral knowledge of stories about people with super-powers—will tell you, with great power comes great responsibility.
“I think that we’ve got to celebrate—yes, women are taking on these roles. But I think we also then have the obligation to hold the door open for someone else to come through,” said Jones Miller. “That, to me, is the next step.”
To hear more from Jamie Jones Miller, listen to the full podcast here. Women Rule takes listeners backstage with female bosses for real talk on how they made it and what advice they have for women looking to lead.