WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mark E. Ferguson addressed members of the Sea Service Leadership Association (SSLA) during the organization's Leadership Engagement Luncheon held at the Pentagon, Jan. 23.
During his remarks, Adm. Ferguson explained that while the Navy is leading the way on diversity issues, there is still more to do.
"Our Navy faces many challenges, but our diversity helps us meet these challenges. Today, we have the most diverse force in our history. We also have the highest quality force in our history. Our Sailors are energized, innovative, focused on teamwork and the mission," explained Adm. Ferguson. "We must focus on how to sustain the quality of that force."
SSLA, established in 1978, is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing professional development through networking, education, and mentorship of women from in the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Coast Guard. As a member of the Navy and Marine Corps Council, SSLA advises the Secretary of the Navy on issues affecting Navy and Marine Corps personnel and their families.
"Organizations like SSLA provide the mentorship and support that are so important to career progression," Adm. Ferguson said. "When you come to forums like this one, you get the opportunity to ask yourself, 'what is possible for me' and 'what is possible for my future?'. That is the core of mentoring -- to show people a vision of a future that they could not imagine for themselves. For me, that is an important role of SSLA."
Mentorship and leadership development are core functions of the organization.
"Our luncheons also allow military personnel an opportunity to interact with senior leaders who otherwise wouldn't have such an opportunity in their daily duties, and also network with people outside of their own communities," explained Cmdr. Katie Shobe, deputy director, Research Protections Division, and Warfighter Protection and Applications Divisions at the Office of Naval Research. "For example, at today's lunch we have a large contingent of Naval Academy midshipmen, and a diverse mix of community specialties from the warfare areas and staff corps."
Other attendees at the luncheon included enlisted Sailors and Air Force members, all with a desire to help support stronger, more diverse military workforce.
"SSLA is an organization run by women in uniform for women in uniform," said Lt. Cmdr. Jean Marie Sullivan, Special Assistant to the Office of Chief of Naval Operations and coordinator for the event. "Women are still a minority in the Navy, and while we have pretty much the same opportunities as our male counterparts, unique challenges remain. Having senior Navy leadership like Adm. Ferguson come to our luncheon demonstrates his commitment to overcoming those challenges. It provides him a unique opportunity to hear from service women directly and, therefore, gain further insight and understanding that can hopefully result in better personnel policies that address issues such as retention and work-life balance."