Military womens symposium enhances leadership traits
Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan -- III Marine Expeditionary Force hosted the 2013 military women’s leadership symposium at Camp Hansen May 2 and at Camp Kinser May 9.
The theme of this year’s symposium was “self-empowerment, leading to a positive command climate.” It brought female service members assigned to various installations on Okinawa together to discuss gender-specific issues.
“The symposium is a way to close a gap that has been identified by many senior leaders on island as a hindrance to command climate,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Rafika O. Vann, the III MEF equal opportunity advisor. “I have received a lot of phone calls in the past from senior leaders looking for ways to answer questions or provide mentorship to female service members.”
The purpose of the event was to provide resources and knowledge, so women know they are not alone, according to Vann. There are people to reach out to when there are questions that may not be able to be answered by the immediate chain of command.
“Despite having great leadership, there are some things women go through that are not relatable to men,” said Vann.
During the seminar, service members were organized into three groups and visited three different workshops: the person within, finding the balance and let’s get to work. As part of each workshop, service members discussed things such as sexual harassment and assault, personal and professional relationships, and adjusting to changes to the physical fitness test.
“I think the best workshop was ‘finding the balance’ because that is when the chief warrant officer, the master sergeant and a lot of other senior female leaders talked to us and showed they have gone through the same problems as us,” said Lance Cpl. Megan R. Irvin, a participant at the symposium and a field wireman with 7th Communication Battalion, III MEF Headquarters Group, III MEF.
One of the biggest lessons learned at the symposium was that there are women struggling with the same challenges, according to Irvin.
“After today, I realized that whether it is myself with a child and work, or it is another Marine with personal relationship issues, you can find a way to make it work, and there are resources available to help you,” said Irvin.
Along with benefiting their professional lives, the symposium also helped attendees recognize ways to improve their personal lives, according to Master Gunnery Sgt. Danielle M. Hendges, the aviation supply chief for Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 36, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III MEF.
“This symposium gives women tools to be better Marines and sailors,” said Hendges. “It helps them become better leaders and shows them that there is a way to be single parents, or to be a mother, a wife and a phenomenal Marine or sailor all in one package.”
If every Marine and sailor walked away from the seminar with one thing, it should be additional self-pride, according to Hendges.
“I wish when I was younger that someone would have shared their experiences with me because it would have made some of my decisions a little easier,” said Hendges. “This seminar helps them grow, and it helps them think about different paths they can take throughout their careers.”