The Sea Service Leadership Association (SSLA), 32nd Annual Joint Women’s Leadership Symposium (JWLS) and Department of the Army Leadership Academia Day Forum commenced 21-23 August 2019 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington, DC.
The Symposium is a “professional development and networking event for military women that provides military members and civilian employees of the Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Army, and Coast Guard with access to mentorship and professional development assets. The conference aims to enhance diversity, recruitment and retention through presentation, discussions and training on leadership and professional growth within the Department of Defense (DoD).”[i]
The symposium theme was “Building Bridges, Changing Cultures” and highlighted “Diversity is the Force, Equality is the Goal, and Inclusion is the Way.” Day One offered education on programs and tools available to women veterans and those preparing career transition into the civilian sector. Day Two hosted Joint and International participants. Day Three events were separated by each service. Each day included presentations, panel discussions and Q&A. Vendors and women authors supported the event.
COL Veronica G. Oswald-Hrutkay, PKSOI’s Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Army Lead attended along with over 1000 other participants from across the services that included international military women from South Korea, Sweden, Australia and Denmark. Her attendance was timely following the publication of the U.S. Strategy on WPS in June of 2019 in which the Department of Defense is working to complete a WPS Strategy and Implementation Plan. This new Strategy aims to “emphasize the need for DoD to look both inward at our talent management and force capacity building to increase joint readiness and outward as we work with partner nations to promote women and girl’s safety, equality, and meaningful participation around the world.”[ii] Doing so further supports the Department in building a more lethal force, strengthening alliances and attracting new partners, and reforming the department for greater performance and affordability.[iii]
The Symposium sought to create an atmosphere to inspire, motivate, mentor and educate military women in attendance. Joint service General Officers, senior enlisted, and junior grades spoke during individual leader presentations and within panel discussion activities. Centered within this were three broad agendas related to Policies, Programs and Processes of increasing integration of women in the military. Topics such as the existing maternity and paternity leave policies, promotion of leadership and development programs, and the need for improved institutional measurement and follow-up mechanisms were highlighted.
The importance of gender equality and identifying how to keep talent by first recognizing talent was stressed. The symposium provided tones, challenges and potentials women experience integrating across the U.S. military. Providing these valuable insights (perspectives) encourages women to seek out how they can make the difference within the military by leveraging the talents within them. As a way forward in preparation for the proposed June 2020 women’s symposium planned in the National Capital Region, Women, Peace, and Security looks to be a potential topic for discussion.
[i] Joint Women’s Leadership Symposium participant syllabus (August 2019)
[ii] United States Department of Defense Women, Peace, and Security Strategy and Implementation Plan (Shared Draft/Pre-decisional as of 15 August 2019).