AcademyWomen Symposium Highlights Accomplishments, Challenges for Female Service Members

Story Number: NNS110929-26Release Date: 9/29/2011 9:01:00 PM
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By Lt. Laura K. Stegherr, Diversity Directorate Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- AcademyWomen, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the mentoring and professional development of military women, held their 8th annual Officer Women Leadership Symposium at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Arlington, Va., Sept. 23-24.

With a theme of "Leading Change: Individually, Locally, Globally," the conference aimed to provide military women venues to network with colleagues and to grow professionally and personally through keynotes, panel discussions, and workshops.

"The theme of the symposium this year is 'Leading Change: Individually, Locally and Globally.' And we feel that this is an opportunity, because all of us as leaders are leading change, not only in our lives and in our organizations, but honestly in the world," said Susan Feland, founder and president of AcademyWomen. "We are a new paradigm of leadership, because as women leaders, you have all done things that generations before us may not have ever even dreamed of. And that is a unique responsibility and privilege that we have - to lead change in our world for the better."

"This [conference] is exciting for us because we're bringing together a really unique community," continued Feland. "How many women's groups or communities of women do you know who have run with a rifle? How many women's groups do you know that know how to shine shoes? How many do push-ups, sit-ups and sprints on a regular basis? Not many. Let's just face it - we are unique and we are special. That's why it's important to bring us all together to share, to connect, and to inspire one another."

Rear Adm. Kathleen Dussault, a Navy Supply Corps officer and director of Logistics Programs and Corporate Operations Division (OPNAV N41), took part in a panel discussing the advancement of women into key leadership roles.

Dussault, who recently completed a six-month special assignment as director of Task Force 2010 headquartered in Kabul, Afghanistan, and who has served aboard three Military Sealift Command ships, shared her perspectives on issues facing Navy women, including representation of female leaders in the flag ranks.

"I've been very proud to be a Naval officer for almost 34 years now, and it's been the adventure of my life. I think I've seen significant progress in the role of women, but there's further to go," said Dussault. "By the time you get up to my rank, 9 percent of the admirals are women. So the statistics need to improve."

Dussault also emphasized the importance of life-work balance to a successful career.

"We need to do something about the 'whole life' that women want to live," said Dussault. "Women and men want to have whole, balanced lives with meaning, with commitment, and with purpose, but that means both profession and family. The Navy is working hard to understand that, and has built programs that will allow us to make that reality come true."

Dussault also discussed the need for more women to pursue careers in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. According to the National Science Foundation, while women make up the majority of U.S. undergraduates, only about 38 percent of all STEM bachelor's degrees are awarded to women.

"The military in general is about authentic technical competence in operating the means and weapons of war to protect our nation," said Dussault. "I would ask you to speak to your daughters, your sisters, to women coming up, because representation of women in the STEM fields will ultimately affect national security."

AcademyWomen was founded in 2003 as a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the professional and personal growth of women from the nation's officer development programs.

The organization offers programs to support and enable members, including the annual symposium, regional events to strengthen dialogue between our members, and public policy research focusing on the professional development of women in the military. In addition, AcademyWomen provides insight, research and advocacy on policy issues relating to women veterans.

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