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Sisters in service: Closing the joint warfighter’s diversity gap

Service members pose for a photo at the 2018 Joint Women's Leadership Symposium June 21, 2018, in San Diego. The symposium included attendees from the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard and 20 other countries. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Annabel Monroe)

Service members pose for a photo at the 2018 Joint Women's Leadership Symposium June 21, 2018, in San Diego. The symposium included attendees from the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard and 20 other countries. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Annabel Monroe)

SAN DIEGO (AFNS) -- The Joint Women’s Leadership Symposium at the San Diego Convention Center June 20-22, 2018, included attendees from the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and other service members from 20 different countries.

As the largest gathering of military women in the nation, it marked the 31st annual symposium hosted by the Sea Service Leadership Association. While both men and women are welcome to attend, about 30 men and 1,200 women took part in the symposium.

Air Force veteran, Olympian and motivational speaker, Laticia “Action” Jackson kicked off the event.

“You will only change the things you are willing to confront...If you want to see a change - be the change,” said Jackson. “Use your voice, speak up, confront the issues that you’ve run from. The power has always been within you, you just have to tap into it!”

This year’s theme “The Power Within You” featured practical workshops, joint discussion boards, an international speakers panel and service specific breakout sessions intended to promote personal and professional development. Panelists included members from all facets of the Department of Defense, Australia, Canada and Sweden.

Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Glenn M. Walters, discussed benefits of recent policy changes and accessing the nation’s entire talent pool.

“Integration is not only the right thing to do, integration is essential to winning our nation’s battles and to maintaining our freedom,” said Walters. “Integration maximizes our combat capability.”

“Throughout our history you’ve always been volunteers,” said Walters. “Women have always been all volunteer.”

Since 1973, when women represented less than two percent of the military, female service has grown to 16 percent of U.S. forces, while females make up about 20 percent of the Air Force.

This marks the highest percentage in history.

“These events have a way of helping both men and women come together in a non-judgmental forum to share stories and experiences that can provide guidance long after the symposium is over,” said 1st Lt. Faliesha, 432nd Operations Support Squadron executive officer and Air Force Women’s Initiative Team member. “It is truly an amazing sight to see when people come together to inspire, empower and motivate one another.”

The symposium provided awareness of challenges faced by female service members, mentorship, networking and education on global military challenges.

“There were a great deal of subjects covered during the symposium and it was extremely empowering to hear so many stories of strength, overcoming adversity and the importance of embracing ourselves,” said Faliesha. “I’m inspired after this experience.”

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