Approximately 325 defense industry professionals recently attended the second annual Women In Defense (WID) Leadership Summit hosted by the Palmetto Chapter of WID at the Charleston Area Convention Center.
The summit featured keynote presentations and interactive training sessions focused on the topics of leadership, career and personal development.
The theme of the event was “Empowered by Women, Empowering the Community.” Presenters, speakers and trainers shared their perspectives on diversity in the workplace, tactical strategies for increased effectiveness, anecdotes on their personal experiences in the Department of Defense and industry, how the workplace has evolved and what the future holds for women in the defense industry.
Keynote speaker Rear Adm. Danelle Barrett, Navy Cyber Security division director, gave advice on challenging gender bias, maintaining work-life balance and being an effective leader.
“Be bold, be forgiving, be innovative, be humble,” said Barrett.
After Barrett’s speech, attendees broke into training groups and attended sessions on communication, self-esteem building and networking.
“One takeaway I gleaned from the breakout session was to start networking by first getting to know the person, not what they do,” said Emily Nystrom, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SSC) Atlantic scientist.
Attendees reconvened for the luncheon keynote speaker Patricia Goforth, Booz Allen Hamilton executive vice president and Business Insider’s 5th Most Powerful Female Engineer of 2018.
The afternoon breakout sessions featured topics such as having difficult conversations, developing leadership skills, and using voice modulation and body communication.
The summit ended with a panel on mentoring and the challenges women face in the workplace today, moderated by Elizabeth Colbert Busch, Director of Business Development at Clemson University’s Restoration Institute, and featured various government and industry panelists.
“We have to stay mindful of unconscious bias,” said SSC Atlantic Executive Director Chris Miller. “We have to stay mindful of who is at our table. Are there enough seats at the table for women, or do we need to take a step back and reevaluate our blind spots?”
Bridget Rencher, Equal Opportunity Employment officer at SSC Atlantic, suggested having conversations about women in the workplace improves their inclusion in the workforce itself — a lesson she learned during her time in the Air Force.
“Before we were able to focus on this notion of inclusion, we had to start having difficult conversations,” said Rencher. “The only way to close the gap is to start having those crucial conversations.”
Events like the WID Leadership Summit serve as a catalyst for including women in the workplace by opening the floor for those crucial conversations and giving attendees the tools they need to succeed in the defense industry.
Established in 1985, WID is a National Security Organization and an affiliate of the National Defense Industrial Association. As a non-profit organization, WID cultivates and supports the advancement and recognition of women in all aspects of national security. The Palmetto Chapter of WID was founded on March 13, 2009 and serves South Carolina along with Fayetteville and Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina.
SSC Atlantic provides systems engineering and acquisition to deliver information warfare capabilities to the naval, joint and national warfighter through the acquisition, development, integration, production, test, deployment, and sustainment of interoperable command, control, communication, computers, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, cyber and information technology capabilities.