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Embracing diversity by leading from the front

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. (AFNS) -- Often times when we hear terms like diversity and inclusion, we think of them more as buzz words or a way to hold someone accountable for not doing the right thing.

But what does diversity actually mean to us in the Air Force? To me, it’s simple: place the right people in the right positions to execute our mission.

I recently had the opportunity to reflect on this after I selected the incoming 315th Maintenance Group commander, who just happens to be a woman. Looking over our organization I realized that in a male-dominated community, we are certainly unique. Soon, all three group commanders in the 315th Airlift Wing will be females as well as our vice wing commander and one O-6 squadron commander.

In the Air Force, women comprise 29 percent of the total force and, according to a recent study by Diversity Central, in the civilian sector women only hold 6 percent of chief executive roles in America.

So, this may leave a person to wonder, why do women hold two-thirds of the senior leader positions in the 315th AW? I think that answer is also simple. We placed the right people in the right positions to move our mission, regardless of the visible or invisible attributes that contribute to diversity within our ranks. These attributes include things like gender, race, and age as well as education, religion or sexual orientation, just to name a few.

So, does this mean that the days of inequality are over and the glass ceiling has been shattered? Certainly not, and we have a long way to go. But, if we recognize that there are cultural and stereotypical biases in each one of us, and fight to overcome those biases, we will be well on our way to leveling the playing field for all Airmen.

As I think about how, as an Air Force, we can continue this trend of promoting the best and brightest by leveraging the best talent we have and capitalize on opportunities. I can tell you that the process does not start at the wing commander level; it starts with every Airman and every supervisor. I charge every one of you to personally evaluate your internal biases, regardless of how small, set them aside and always continue to push our Air Force forward.

I would love to see a day when statistics are no longer needed and the best individual is always pushed to the top, regardless of gender. We have the world’s most powerful Air Force and the reason for that is not because of our weapon systems, it is because of our Airmen. So, take care of each other, embrace your core value of integrity first, and always recognize your best and brightest no matter what.