Symposium Offers Military Women Chance To Connect, Empower And Succeed


By Staff Sgt. Vanessa Young

Military women from across the nation have gathered here March 15 and 16 to focus on professional development during the 24th Annual Joint Women’s Leadership Symposium. This is the first time Airmen joined the ranks of the more than 1,300 women at this event.

The symposium’s theme, “Connect, Empower, Succeed,” reflects the opportunities for leadership development while also highlighting the achievements of women leaders on the front lines around the globe.

Symposium participants will listen to various accomplished civilian and military senior leaders speak on the role women play in the defense of the U.S.

During her address on Women Building Global Security and Stability, Malanne Verveer, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues, said that the symposium’s theme of connect, empower and succeed should belong to women everywhere.

“Women everywhere are taking courageous steps, they are making a difference and they are responding to their circumstances,” she said. “Like all of you, women in the U.S. military are doing enormous work for peace and security around the globe.”

In some instances, U.S. military women have served in some situations where men cannot, she added. Female engagement teams in Afghanistan go on combat patrols and interact with rural Afghan women in a way not possible for male service members, “…and in a military campaign where the perception of the population is so crucial, the role these female engagement teams is playing is innovative, effective and nothing less than critical.”

Among the Air Force speakers at the event are Lt. Gen. Susan Helms, a former astronaut and the first U.S. military woman to fly in space, and Lt. Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger, the vice commander of Air Force Materiel Command and the highest ranking female in the Air Force.

On the second day of the conference, members from each service will conduct break-out sessions where Airmen can network with leaders and peers on subjects like career progression and balancing work and life.

“One thing I hope to get out of this conference is mentorship and interaction,” said Master Sgt. Lisa Jones, the superintendent of Joint Interagency Task Force-South. “I’m really looking forward to our Air Force break out session. That’s what’s really exciting about this conference, getting with the other Air Force women and talking to them about their problems and their mission.”

(Lt. Col. Ann Stefanek, Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs contributed to this article)

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