By Elizabeth Celtrick
Photos by Becca Castellano
The U.S. Africa Command’s Diversity and Inclusion Working Group used the occasion of Women’s Equality Day and the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment to host a day-long event at the AFRICOM Events Center on Kelley Barracks, Aug 26.
The event began with an hour-long Health, Wealth, Fitness and Leadership expo.
The committee chair, Veronica Sullivan, stated the purpose of the expo was to “…help highlight and recognize the leadership and talents of women in the local community.” Attendees were able to network with other participants as they moved around the room visiting the various information booths.
Following the expo, the audience settled into their socially-distanced seats and were treated to an agenda filled with a substantial number of influential men and women speakers, who addressed a wide range of topics of concern to women, from peace and security to talent retention to mentorship programs.
“U.S. Africa Command leadership recognizes the importance of diversity and inclusion, and this event helped strengthen both,” said Col Lisa Lamb, Senior Leader Advisor. “There is a lot of collective experience and insights the command can leverage across our entire team.”
After a virtual welcome by Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander, U.S. Africa Command, Rear Adm. Heidi Berg, director of intelligence, delivered the keynote address. She focused her remarks on how equality plays an important role in talent retention.
“We have to continue to create an environment where we can attract and retain women who feel welcome and part of the team,” said Berg. She addressed some pointed questions, with answers based on her long Navy career, in positions where she was often the only woman in the room.
To enable the largest audience participation possible, the event was broadcasted live online. The first two panel sessions were conducted in person, and the final one was held with speakers calling in from multiple stateside locations. The panel members, whom have more than 100 years of combined leadership and mentorship experience, delved into such topics as talent retention, equal representation, gender bias, allies and mentorship to name a few.
“Our panel members offered inspirational messages relevant to the entire audience,” said Cheryl Patrick, committee co-chair and mentorship panel lead. “As these extraordinary leaders shared their personal stories, they were passionate and excited to help strengthen our community.”