Sisters in Service: Closing the Joint Warfighter Diversity Gap

The largest gathering of military women in the nation, the Joint Women’s Leadership Symposium, was held June 20-22 at the San Diego Convention Center here and included attendees from 20 different countries and all branches of the U.S. armed forces.

This year marked the 31st year of the event, which is hosted by the Sea Service Leadership Association. While both men and women are welcome to attend, about 30 men and 1,200 women took part in the symposium.

Air Force veteran, Olympian and motivational speaker, Laticia “Action” Jackson kicked off the event.

“You will only change the things you are willing to confront. … If you want to see a change — be the change,” Jackson said. “Use your voice, speak up, confront the issues that you’ve run from. The power has always been within you. You just have to tap into it!”

This year’s theme “The Power Within You” featured practical workshops, joint discussion boards, an international speakers panel and service specific breakout sessions intended to promote personal and professional development. Panelists included representatives of all facets of the Defense Department and Australia, Canada and Sweden.

Deep Pool of Talent

Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Glenn M. Walters discussed benefits of recent policy changes and accessing the nation’s entire talent pool.

“Integration is not only the right thing to do, integration is essential to winning our nation’s battles and to maintaining our freedom,” he said. “Integration maximizes our combat capability.

“Throughout our history you’ve always been volunteers,” Walters said. “Women have always been all-volunteer.”

Service by women has grown since 1973, when they represented less than 2 percent of the military. Today, women make up 16 percent of U.S. forces, and about 20 percent of the Air Force.

This marks the highest percentage in history.

“These events have a way of helping both men and women come together in a nonjudgmental forum to share stories and experiences that can provide guidance long after the symposium is over,” said Air Force 1st Lt. Faliesha, the executive officer for the 432nd Operations Support Squadron and Air Force Women’s Initiative Team member. Her last name is withheld for security considerations. “It is truly an amazing sight to see when people come together to inspire, empower and motivate one another.”

The JWLS provided awareness of challenges faced by female service members, mentorship, networking and education on global military challenges.

“There were a great deal of subjects covered during the symposium and it was extremely empowering to hear so many stories of strength, overcoming adversity and the importance of embracing ourselves,” Faliesha said. “I’m inspired after this experience.”