AFMC partnership drives progress in mentoring, diversity

  • Published
  • By Marisa Alia-Novobilski
  • Air Force Materiel Command

A unique partnership between two Air Force Materiel Command personnel teams continues to progress both mentoring and diversity goals across the enterprise.

More than 2,500 uniformed and civilian Airmen and Guardians participated in a series of Cross-Cultural Mentoring Panels in 2022, which emphasized inclusivity, growth and greater understanding of mentoring relationships across all demographic groups.

“Mentorship is a critical strategy for developing our workforce to become more diverse, agile, and inclusive, both personally and professionally,” said Amanda Smith-Nethercott, AFMC Manpower, Personnel and Services mentoring lead. “The overall goal of this campaign is to create an inclusive culture where people of all demographics feel comfortable requesting and thriving in mentoring relationships.”

While AFMC has made a dedicated effort to emphasize the importance of mentorship for many years, feedback from sensing sessions and other forums indicated that individuals from under-represented demographics did not feel that mentoring was an option available to them. The Cross-Cultural Mentoring effort aimed to create opportunities for members of diverse demographic groups to share their stories and journeys so they could learn how to participate in a mentoring relationship at every developmental level.

The AFMC Mentoring Team worked alongside the command Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Team to co-host eight virtual panels aligned with the designated Special Observance Months, to include Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Disability Awareness Month, and more. The panels were led by members of the AFMC Major Command Barrier Analysis Working Groups—teams set up to address demographic and social barriers of diverse groups across the command.

“Our MAJBAWG teams are keenly focused on the barriers and issues that affect their specific focus area, whether it’s something related to the LGBTQ+ community or a barrier faced by women in the workplace. We leveraged their leadership and expertise for each of our panels,” said Brianna Russ, DEIA team personnel specialist. “This helped increase respect and curiosity in conversations around demographic diversity. We also identified ways individuals could mitigate biases in a mentoring relationship, especially with someone of a different demographic.”

The events, part of the ongoing culture shift driving towards greater equity and cultural proficiency across all enterprise demographics, also increased metrics across several areas. AFMC saw an increase in the numbers of minority and female participants in the Air Force’s MyVector platform, a central hub for career development and mentoring across the department. The AFMC program also drew interest from other Air Force organizations seeking guidance on how they could implement a similar program on a broader scale.

“We continue to focus on taking care of our people, and we’re trying to set the standard for others to follow across the enterprise. We’ve had interest from a number of other Air and Space Force organizations in our mentoring program, and we plan to expand our offerings to include other demographics in 2023,” Smith-Nethercott said.

AFMC will continue to offer the Cross-Cultural Mentoring Panels in 2023, with two additional events focused on mentoring for the officer and enlisted force. As the servicing command for the U.S. Space Force, the program endeavors to include more Guardian participation, both in the attendee and panel member roles.

The first panel event will be held in February in conjunction with the Black History Month observance. A formal announcement for the event will be released later this month.

“Mentoring plays a key role in an individual’s growth, and it’s something available to all. These events are key to encouraging new cross-cultural mentoring relationships, as we learn to understand and respect the cultural differences that make us stronger as a command,” Smith-Nethercott said. “We look forward to increased participation by all in 2023.”