Sheila McNeill has been battling the barriers that prevent women from succeeding in a male-dominated world much of her adult life.
When she succeeded as much as her male counterparts expected, she pounded on the glass ceiling that prevents many women from their goals, and she shattered it.
She tells her story in a new book called, “What Are You Doing Here?” It’s the question she has been repeatedly asked from the time she was fired from a job after 17 years because of her gender, prompting her to file a job discrimination lawsuit against her employer.
The question was asked again when she decided to join a local Navy League chapter and began rising through the ranks to become the first woman in Navy League history to become its national president.
The book tells the behind-the-scenes story of McNeill’s rise to the most powerful position in the Navy League and the people she met along the way who questioned her ability and the many people who supported her along the way.
The quest to convince people she was qualified to lead the Navy League was not easy. Some told her a woman would never be elected president of the Navy League, and they worked hard to block her selection to the position.
But there were also influential supporters who recognized the valuable work she did serving three years on the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, as well as her contributions to the Navy League as she rose through the regional and national levels.
The question became so tedious that she often thought, “Here we go again,” before she responded with a tactful answer that often convinced the person asking the question that she knew what she was talking about.
As a result, McNeill has dealt with and earned the respect of high-ranking military officers, elected officials and the public.
She continues to remain active in military affairs as president of Camden Partnership, an organization dedicated to supporting Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay and Coast Guard units operating in the region.
Most recently, she helped lead the charge to get Camden County designated as the nation’s first Coast Guard community. She also helped convince the Navy to convert the four oldest Ohio-class submarines from ballistic missile to guided missile boats. Two of those vessels, the USS Georgia and Florida, are now home ported at Kings Bay.
The book will be sold at local book stores and online at Amazon and other sites in March. She will also have four book signings: March 19 at Synovus Bank at 6308 Georgia 40 in St. Marys at a time to be announced. From 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on March 20, she will be at Once Upon a Bookseller on 207 Osborne St. in St. Marys.
And, on April 5, she will sign books at the Synovus Bank branch at 1625 Frederica Road on St. Simons Island at a time to be announced.