Forum aids women seeking to enhance careers

Accomplished professionals revealed their strategies for success during the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Women’s Leadership Forum held March 24 on Patch Barracks.

The forum, hosted by the USAG Stuttgart Equal Opportunity Office Special Emphasis Program Committee, is designed to help women advance in their federal careers, according to Yasmin Rosa, U.S. Africa Command Equal Employment Opportunity manager and lead SEP action officer.

In its third year, the forum offered more than 130 women the opportunity to network and hear from local civilian and military leaders.

“Here, you meet people you otherwise would not, and you can ask them questions on how they got ahead,” Rosa said.

As the number of participants in the forum increased this year, so did the program.

The forum grew from four to eight hours and included a senior leader question and answer session. This year, the invitation to Patch High School students included ninth- and 10th-graders, Rosa said.

The morning keynote speaker, Col. Elizabeth A. Bierden, Defense Information Systems Agency-Europe commander, recalled her introduction to Army leadership in 1988, when she was stationed in South Korea as a second lieutenant. She discovered a mentor in a superior officer. 

“Army Capt. Rosemary Stewart, taught me how to be a female leader in an Army where the [percentage] of women … was two percent,” Bierden said. “I overcame prejudices in the Army because of Rose.”

Following Bierden’s speech, the panelists addressed this year’s theme: inspiring, motivating, and mentoring the leaders of the 21st century. 

Panel members included Sherry Bowdin-Quimby, U.S. European Command intelligence lead exercise officer; Col. Patricia D. Hoffman, EUCOM commander’s deputy foreign policy advisor (military); Patricia Maxwell, chief accountant for the United Services Organization branches in Stuttgart and Grafenwöhr; and Liwanag “Louie” Cordero, management analyst and special emphasis program manager for AFRICOM.

The women spoke about their personal experiences, which included many common threads such as facing challenges and overcoming barriers.

Then, attendees broke into workgroups led by the panel members on topics such as delegating, and mentoring and coaching.

There were takeaway lessons for everyone. Fernanda Hernandez, a PHS sophomore, said she learned to seek advice from mentors and coaches. “Leaders do ask for help,” she said.

In the afternoon, Rear Adm. Norman R. Hayes, EUCOM Intelligence Headquarters director, moderated a question and answer session with senior leaders Katherine Canavan, EUCOM civilian deputy to the commander and foreign policy advisor; Brig. Gen. Barbara J. Faulkenberry, AFRICOM deputy director for operations and logistics, and Jane Dickerson, director of EUCOM’s National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.

For Vonda Kenion, the Stuttgart Civilian Personnel Advisory Center director and afternoon keynote speaker, leadership is about setting good examples and respecting others. She likened the leadership process to parenting, adding “it is a lot of hard work.” However, she reminded the audience that “the only place you will find success before work is in the dictionary.”

For participant Faith Barnes, USAG Stuttgart Army Emergency Relief manager, the event confirmed that anything is possible for women in the workplace. “We are only limited by the boundaries we set,” she said.