by Jodi Ames
375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
12/9/2015 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Following
the Department of Defense's lead to empower women through leadership
development, Scott Air Force Base now has a Lean In Circle, a group to
train, mentor and network for success.
In September 2015, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced his
unconditional support of Lean In Circles for service members and
civilians. His announcement followed the Pentagon's partnership with
best-selling author of "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead" and
Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.
It was the spark Capt. Karen Mock needed to pursue her idea of forming a circle at Scott AFB.
Mock, who serves as director of public affairs for 18th Air Force,
founded the Scott Women Lean In Circle with the goal of empowering women
through deliberate leadership training and peer-to-peer mentoring. The
circle is designed to connect women from diverse backgrounds and provide
them with an opportunity to network, exchange ideas and share
"What I hope is that with the very diverse group of women in the circle,
that you can find somebody to connect with who will be able to help
with any issue that you may be dealing with in your professional life or
personal life," said Mock.
The group started small, initially comprised of only a few of Mock's
closest colleagues. Now, less than three months later, the Scott Women
Lean In Circle has quickly grown to 59 total force members, making it
the largest group in the Air Force chapter.
The outpouring of interest and participation from women of various
ranks, services and components indicates that there was clearly a need
for this type of group here.
The early success of the circle can be attributed to the structured and
practical approach to discussions regarding gender issues.
While the Lean In website provides tools and resources to run successful
meetings, the Scott Women circle is unique in that it specifically
targets leadership within the group and has been structured around a
one-year syllabus that outlines discussion topics and recommended
readings for each month.
The syllabus, which was developed by Lt. Col. DeDe Halfhill, Air
Mobility Command public affairs director and facilitator for the circle,
is intended to guide discussions in a way that promotes open and
constructive dialogue among the group's members.
"Women have come to the group, and they've seen that we have a plan that
guides the year-long discussion through several deliberate leadership
development topics. They can see what we're going to cover and how those
topics apply not only to leadership, but to their everyday lives," said
The syllabus focuses on practical readings and exercises that were
developed to facilitate immediate changes that encourage personal and
"It's not just about coming together to talk about academic ideas on
leadership, but to provide options for 'in the trenches'
implementation," said Halfhill. "Every single month, we'll walk away
with practical tools that can be put into place that day. I think people
see that, and they carry that excitement out as they start talking to
While members will see gender issues related to barriers and bias
sprinkled throughout the discussion, the group is much more than that.
Halfhill and Mock explained that the emphasis of the circle is more
about honing leadership skill sets and instilling confidence than it is
Those skill sets include navigating difficult conversations, delivering
feedback, identifying blocks to accepting feedback, and the ability to
develop boundaries that help put work-life balance into place.
"It's really about giving young leaders tools and opportunities to try
those tools out in an environment where they can come back and have a
discussion about what is or isn't working," Halfhill said. "The circle
isn't about women versus men. The circle is about empowering whoever
attends to be the best version of themselves and the best leader they
Mock added, "We're trying to encourage each other to go after our
ambitions, go for what we want and support each other in doing that."
As for the long-term vision for the group, Mock said she hopes to see
the Scott Women circle evolve into a chapter that supports other Lean In
Circles throughout the Team Scott community.
"We may find that there are enlisted folks who are more comfortable
discussing these topics with each other. That would be a perfect
circle," said Mock.
Halfhill said, "There are so many topics we can address. We could turn
that syllabus into a two-year discussion. I think the sky is the limit."
In addition to regular meetings, the Scott Women Lean In Circle also
hosts guest speakers. The first guest speaker, retired Chief Master Sgt.
Vicki Gamble, former AMC Command Chief, is scheduled to speak to the
group Dec. 15 at 11 a.m. in the 375th Contracting Squadron conference