SAN DIEGO (NNS) – Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (CNSP) hosted a women's symposium Oct. 10 providing women serving in the Navy an open forum to discuss challenges and opportunities they may encounter in the fleet.
The theme for this year’s symposium was “Inspire the Future, Lead the way.” An idea that was heavily endorsed by Vice Adm. Thomas S. Rowden, Commander of CNSP said during his opening remarks.
I’m thrilled to be standing before you today,” said Rowden. “If anyone in the Navy understands the benefit of change, the desire to right systems, the gravity of being measured on no-kidding merit and proficiency, it’s the great women of the United States Navy.”
There are more than 59,000 women currently serving on active duty in the Navy with more than 150,000 having served since the establishment of the Women's Inclusion Law of 1993, allowing women to serve on ships and amphibious vessels alongside their male counterparts. The Surface Navy by itself is comprised of more than 56,000 Sailors of which nearly 10,000 are women, a higher percentage than any other community in the Navy.
“You and your female predecessors, for so long, have exemplified the essence of honor, courage and commitment, steadfast and fighting for opportunity and equality at all levels,” Rowden said. “Through the years the Navy has come to understand the strength of our service is in our diversity, or as I like to say, ‘in our inclusivity’.”
That strength also relies on recruiting and retaining the highest caliber of Sailors and ensuring they have a work environment that promotes success. Cmdr. Emily Basset, commanding officer of PCU Manchester (LCS 14) Crew 214 and keynote speaker for the symposium, spoke about the importance of balancing work and life.
“Instead of thinking of it like a balancing scale or a see-saw which only balances two things, I like to think of it as a web that reaches out in all directions covering all the factors in your life,” Basset said. “You always want a little tension on your web to distribute the weight and the stress evenly, and to act as a safety net which holds everything together.”
The symposium's primary purpose is to mentor and build networks. It is an open forum where attendees can raise questions about career and life choices to a panel of senior female leadership, and where those leaders can teach the attendees about programs and policies so they may take the information back to the waterfront and their ships to share it with others.
“I want you to hear me loud and clear when I say that we as a surface force value individual growth, and being able to provide the ability for every Sailor to achieve their full potential,” said Rowden. “I am proud of the fact that we are continuing to grow and present opportunities for growth and equality. The surface force is trending positive in almost every category associated with our female population of surface warriors.”
A secondary result of hosting the women’s symposium is to allow senior leadership and the CNSP Diversity Office to gain better insight and feedback from attendees by presenting information, discussing solutions and encouraging communication among females in the community.
“It is important not only for junior enlisted females to see potential and opportunity on the deck plates, but it also helps normalize diversity among the male population,” said Rowden. “Again, the strength of our service is in our diversity, is in our inclusivity, and we need it in our role-models and in our retention methods.”
The symposium also offered presentations and discussion on outreach programs which include mentorship, childcare information, duty assignments and uniform matters. The goal of these programs, available to both men and women, is to encourage retention of service members by providing them with guidance and continued growth opportunities through candid personal and professional discussions which can benefit the entire Navy.