Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo

 

Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

Janet Wolfenbarger


Janet Wolfenbarger is a military trailblazer. In 1976, she was among the first women admitted to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. And last June, she became the Air Force’s first female four-star officer—the second woman to earn the distinction in any branch of the military and the only one on active duty.

Now 54 and highly decorated, General Wolfenbarger serves as commander of the Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. She oversees acquisitions, weapons development, and logistics support while overseeing some 83,000 civilian and military staff members. Her mission, she says, “is to ensure our Air Force is equipped to provide world-dominant air power.” Her biggest challenge? Budget constraints.

But Wolfenbarger has been trained to view hurdles as opportunities for innovation, and she credits her education and military training for preparation. “The academy put me in situations that stretched me mentally, physically, emotionally, and academically,” she says. “I came out on the other side of those experiences knowing I am far more capable than I ever thought I could be.”

Her MIT training in aeronautics and astronautics further cemented her self-confidence. “My MIT studies took me to an entirely new level and armed me with the critical-thinking skills and the technical background to more effectively operate at the highest levels in our Air Force,” she says.

Having a supportive family has helped her achieve a healthy work-life balance. Wolfenbarger’s father was an Air Force pilot, as is her husband, Craig. “In today’s military, it’s not necessary to trade off being a wife or mother for achieving success in a career,” she says. That wasn’t always the case, however. When Wolfenbarger began her Air Force career, there was still an executive order in place allowing the discharge of women who became parents.

With her promotion, Wolfenbarger fully acknowledges her role-model status. “I have a responsibility to demonstrate via speeches and other engagement opportunities that our Air Force has embraced the value of diversity in our institution,” she says. She’s often asked her secret to success. Her answer: “I’ve done the very best job I could at each and every assignment I was given, and I brought a positive attitude to work every day.”

Wolfenbarger lives on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base with her husband and teenage daughter, Callie.

0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives

Close

Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me