The theme of this year's symposium, "Advancing Together: Understanding Our Past, Defining Our Future," provided an opportunity for military and civilian women leaders to discuss their roles in the industries of cybersecurity, space, digital services, information technology and overall innovation.
Lisa Hunter, president of San Diego's WID, shared her enthusiasm for the 2017 symposium, as well as women's continued presence and participation in the defense community.
"This year marks our fifth symposium and I could not be more grateful," said Hunter. "We are here today because of women who have come before us to challenge traditional roles in society. I hope everyone leaves today feeling inspired and supported, but most importantly, motivated to continue this momentum into the future."
During the symposium, a cyber-discussion panel was held to enhance conversation regarding cybersecurity. Delores Washburn, chief engineer, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SSC) Pacific, moderated the event.
"We are all cyber warriors," said Washburn. "Everyone in this room plays a role in cybersecurity because one cyber vulnerability impacts us all. Our actions, our leadership and our responses are critical for the defense of our organizations and the country."
Susie Hartzog, department head for communications, networks and cybersecurity at SSC Pacific, stressed the importance of effectively training a cybersecurity workforce with the skill sets necessary to prevent and react to adversaries trying to hack into U.S. networks.
"Adversaries are 'getting in' through system vulnerabilities," said Hartzog. "SSC Pacific continues to recruit and hire the most qualified cyber experts in order to ensure we are always prepared. Our education programs help the cybersecurity workforce obtain and refine their skills."
At the conclusion of the symposium, a Space and Naval Warfare Systems (SPAWAR) leadership panel discussed "Accelerating the Delivery of Innovation to the Fleet."
Rear Adm. David Lewis, commander, SPAWAR, emphasized innovation across the U.S. Navy requires creativity, flexibility and adaptability.
"At SPAWAR we develop and deliver the most advanced technology to the warfighter," said Lewis. "However, we need to keep in mind that the technology 'of the future' is the technology that allows our people -- our Sailors -- to operate and win. The systems we introduce to the fleet need to be understood by the people fighting the mission, and they need to understand how to best use the systems to adapt in an unpredictable situation."
Joining Lewis on the panel was Rear Adm. Ronald Fritzemeier, chief engineer, SPAWAR, and Dr. Stephen Russell, SPAWAR director of science and technology.
Fritzemeier discussed the importance of collaboration and teamwork in an innovation environment.
"As engineers, we provide a tremendous capability to the fleet, but if Sailors cannot operate or maintain these capabilities within a maritime environment, then we are not doing our job," said Fritzemeier. "It is important for us to understand how acquisition, testing, certification and installs impact the current cyber-technology space. Through an exchange of ideas and diversity of thought, we can work to move forward quickly and sustain our current technical warfighting strength."
Attendees at this year's symposium expressed genuine excitement to participate and network with women who have broken barriers throughout the workforce.
Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Shafer, Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (PEO C4I) lead for DDG 1000, appreciated the various topics, interesting dialogue and networking opportunity.
"I jumped at the opportunity to attend the symposium," said Shafer. "The women presenters were amazing and inspiring. Their careers and accomplishments stood on their own, separate from the fact that they are women. As a woman in the military, this resonated with me because I have never felt like my gender played a factor in my career. I am thankful for what the [DoD] has done to ensure equal opportunity for women and others who have previously felt left behind."
Mavis Machniak, SSC Pacific department head for logistics and fleet support and executive champion for SSC Pacific's Women of the Workforce (WoW), stated she is grateful for events like this which showcase women who support the defense of the country.
"Women's History Month is a time when women can take a look back at history and thank the trailblazers who came before us," said Machniak. "As an engineer, senior leader and mother with a daughter at the United States Naval Academy, I am truly excited about all the opportunities available to women today, and the doors that will continue to open in the future."