Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Friday, September 11, 2015

20th Air Force Women's Leadership Symposium

by 2nd Lt. Veronica Perez
90th Missile Wing Public Affairs

9/10/2015 - F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. -- Diversity is an important component of the Air Force. No successful organization can operate by working as individuals. Goals and progress are achieved when individuals come together and work as one team. Airmen strive to make other Airmen better in order to propel the mission to new heights. Empowering female Airmen is an investment in the Air Force team and future.

20th Air Force is leading the way to ensure women continue to bring their mindset and skills to a more diverse Air Force culture. The first-ever 20th Air Force Women's Leadership Symposium is taking place Sept. 14 through 16 at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming. Enlisted females (E4-E5) and female officers (O1-O3) selected from the wings and units within 20th AF will have the opportunity to connect with each other and gain insight and knowledge on leadership from various guest speakers.

"Diversity in our Air Force is vital to mission success," said Maj. Gen. Jack Weinstein, 20th AF and Task Force 214 commander. "The unique backgrounds and perspectives of all Airmen help us to grow and evolve our combat capability."

Capt. Sandra Walker, Task Force 214 chief of combat assessments and readiness, is the creator and project officer of the event. She was inspired after attending a similar Navy women's symposium in San Diego, California, this past summer.

"It was really inspiring to see that many women in one room," said Walker. "There were hundreds of us and the networking piece was so phenomenal that I really wished 20th AF would hold something like that."

After researching current statistics and data, Walker found that 16 percent of the Air Force is currently female, and the 20th AF is three percent below that average. Additionally, Walker concluded that approximately 54 percent of enlisted females and 89 percent of female officers separate from the Air Force or cross-train into another career field, prior to entering field grade officer or senior non-commissioned officer ranks.

"There are multiple reasons I imagine people decide to get out and separate, and the symposium will provide us with direct feedback and understanding of why," said Walker.

The mission of the symposium is to provide female Airmen professional development through mentorship, education and networking, Walker said. Various guest speakers include leaders within the military and civilian worlds who will discuss important topics ranging from family and career planning to higher education and leadership.

"Empowerment is a cornerstone of the changes we're making in the ICBM mission," said Weinstein.

"But before we can empower junior officers and enlisted we need to coach, train and mentor them," he said. "This leadership symposium for women will grow these Airmen professionally and examine ways in which we can make our mission and our Air Force more inclusive."

Attendees will have the opportunity to sit down and speak candidly with mentors in smaller group sessions to talk about any issues or concerns in their work or personal lives.

"I think knowing that there are people that are like you out there and you're personally getting to know them will make you realize you are not the only one struggling with certain issues," said Walker.

Mentorship is invaluable toward development as leaders, and Walker hopes attendees will make connections that will lead to long-lasting relationships.

"Together we can make a whole lot more happen, especially by encouraging and supporting one another to move forward," she said. "And only together can we increase opportunities, improve policies and achieve the diversity we need to make 20th AF stronger."

Walker spoke very highly of all of the scheduled guest speakers, including Chief Master Sgt. Felica F. Noil, Command Chief Master Sergeant for the 91st Missile Wing, Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. The variety of guest speakers, like Noil, brings different stories and perspectives to inspire and motivate female Airmen.

"I believe women do need to see other women to empower each other and be able to answer questions outside of their career field and the folks they deal with every day," said Noil. "Hopefully, by what someone hears they'll know, 'I can do that too'."

Staff Sgt. Randee Meyer, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of facilities maintenance team training for the 91st MW, is attending the symposium and hopes to learn from the experiences of speakers and pass on lessons learned as a leader and mentor herself.

"I would just like to hear from these women what they think about being a mentor and a leader in the Air Force, because my career-field doesn't have very many women in it," she said. "I definitely try to keep people in our career field, to keep doing our job and keep them in the Air Force working hard."

Walker and Noil both want attendees to become aware of the resources, options and contacts available to them in terms of making career decisions in the future and to share the information with their home installations.

"Hopefully the attendees can go back to their wings and provide feedback on some level on what they learned, because every person, male or female, can learn from this symposium," said Walker. "Together we strengthen this numbered air force and build future leaders."

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