"Be intentional in everything that you do," says U.S. Coast Guard Deputy Sector Commander Zeita Merchant. "I think that's what I would have told myself because I was a little hesitant."

She points out that many women in the workplace feel as if they need to be told what to do before they decide to take action. "Just go for it and don't feel as if you have to ask for permission," Merchant says.

She joined the Coast Guard young, and going to boot camp was her first experience living away from home. She wasn't sure if it was the right path for her because she doubted her abilities — but she's come a long way. Merchant was recently promoted to Deputy Sector Commander at U.S. Coast Guard Sector New York.

Watch Merchant discuss how women can step up in the workplace:

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