Recently the co-chairs of the FWA For Women Veterans (FWV) initiative, Andrea “Andy” Esposito and Raleigh Mayer, attended the AcademyWomen’s 2014 Symposium “Lead In: Breaking Barriers to Success”. The theme spoke to breaking the barriers service women as well as reservists and veterans face that prevent them from reaching their full potential in the workplace. The three-day event, held at the Women in Military Service for America War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia provided insights and discussed opportunities for overcoming cultural and societal obstacles that may limit women’s ability to reach the highest levels of leadership.
FWA President Kimberly Weinrick was delighted that that the FWA FWV co-chairs could attend this important event emphasizing, “Participation of FWA Leaders and Members in events like the AcademyWomen’s OWLS Symposium is helping us further develop our critically important initiative, FWA for Women Veteran’s: Serving Women Who Served.”
The keynote speakers at the event included:
Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth: One of the first Army woman to fly combat missions and whose Blackhawk helicopter was shot down. She lost both her legs and partial use of her right arm and was awarded a Purple Heart for her combat injuries. She has an indomitable spirit and shared her inspirational story of obliterating obstacles in her path and journey to success. During her appearance she wore a skirt and black pumps that revealed her prosthetics, one painted in the American flag and the other camouflage. The reception from the audience was almost deafening!
Vice Admiral Michele Howard: Just received her fourth star in her commission as an Admiral. Her words focused on the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security. Having role models such as Michele in the position to have our country’s policies recognize women’s needs around the world are invaluable for current situations, with refugee women and children, and a clear path for our country’s own future women leaders to continue this desperately needed work.
Brigadier General Wilma Vaught: USAF (ret) is one of the most highly decorated military women in U.S. history. She pioneered new opportunities for the women who followed her and helped ensure that their courage and bravery would not be forgotten. General Vaught serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Women’s History Museum and the Virginia War Memorial Foundation Board of Trustees. It was through her sheer determination and fundraising that the Women in Military Service for America War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia was built. (It is at the entrance to the Arlington Cemetery).
The FWA’s Raleigh Mayer presented an engaging workshop “Decoding Gender Dialects.” The attendees crowded around her at breaks to speak further about the topic and most of the following speakers referred back to her poignant presentation. In addition, Andy Esposito further developed contacts to assist the FWA’s growing FWV project in getting the word out to veterans and having other associations and companies support our efforts.
The FWA FWV is proud to continue developing its program for women veterans and active duty service personnel, with a focus on women, to assist them in the continued development of their leadership and job search skills as well as provide mentoring.
“The FWA was one of the few civilian organizations to receive an invitation from the Academy Women board to attend the OWLS event. This was truly an honor and gives us greater insight into this incredible group of strong, compassionate, and intelligent women leaders.” Andy commented, “We came away with a much better understanding of both the sacrifice given and the unique professional opportunities available to women via the services.” Among this group of women were powerful role models accepting the hardships of deploying, especially with children at home, as well as being in combat with all its potential ramifications.
Raleigh added, “We also saw many commonalities of character between the military attendees and the civilian professional women we know, including loyalty, hard work, fortitude and compassion.”
The FWA FWV hopes to engage further with Academy Women.