Air Force Global Strike Command to Host Women’s Leadership Symposium

Air Force Global Strike Command’s third Women’s Leadership Symposium—to be held virtually from Sept. 1-2—will tackle the promotion of diversity and inclusion within its ranks, the unique issues women Airmen face at work, and how all of that impacts retention.

The event’s theme is “Courage, Curiosity, and Community,” and it aims to equip the major command’s Airmen “to reorient, reinvent, and reimagine AFGSC by using their innate courage and curiosity to be free-thinking, bold, and irrepressible leaders who foster communities centered on dignity, respect, diversity, and inclusion for our entire team,” its webpage states.

Women comprise 19 percent of Global Strike’s manpower and 20 percent of USAF’s Active-duty force, making them “the largest underrepresented group” in the service and major command alike said A3/6 Directorate Chief and 2020 event chair Maj. Kim C. Rigby in an Aug. 25 interview with Air Force Magazine.

“When we really look at issues that impact them [and] what barriers we face to service, we start uncovering a lot of pieces,” she said. “We start peeling back that onion, and a lot of times, those policies that may be in place or those restrictions or barriers, when we’re able to lift those for women, they oftentimes benefit everyone.”

Discussion topics will include imposter syndrome, detecting and combating unconscious bias, team-building, confidence, mindful leadership, and more, she said.

“We’re also going to touch on diversity, inclusion, and intersectionality as another key piece and why those are important skills and important pieces for every leader’s toolbox,” she noted.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass—the first woman to hold that position—will keynote the event, Rigby said, and other speakers will include:

  • Chief Master Sgt. Melvina A. Smith, 8th Air Force’s command chief master sergeant and the Joint-Global Strike Operations Center’s senior enlisted leader
  • Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Cyber Effects Operations Lt. Gen. Mary F. O’Brien
  • Gwendolyn R. DeFilippi, USAF’s assistant deputy director of manpower, personnel, and services, and the strategic director of the Department of the Air Force Barrier Analysis Working Group
  • Maj. Alea Nadeem, a DAF Barrier Analysis Working Group’s Women’s Initiative Team chief

Air Force Research Laboratory Commander Brig. Gen. Heather L. Pringle will also address the Global Strike community via pre-recorded remarks, Rigby added.

She stressed that the event is open to all Global Strike Airmen, civilian employees, and contractors—regardless of their sex.

“When we look at the number of women in the Air Force, you know 20 percent and 19 percent are small numbers,” she said. “We need that 80 percent … to be strong advocates and allies for their female partners, so we definitely want to make sure that men are in the conversation, that they understand what’s going on, and that we hear their voices as well.”

And while the command sees the event as an educational opportunity, Rigby said Global Strike also hopes it will cultivate mentorship. 

“There may be a leader out there who you didn’t know of because you potentially … were in the missile fields …,” she said. “There might have been someone whose speech, or topic presentation, or story really resonated with you, but they were someone under the 8th Air Force umbrella, and maybe your paths wouldn’t have met. So it opens up different opportunities for mentoring and networking as well.”

According to the command, Airmen who are interested in attending the event should:

  • Sign up here. Registrations that come in after Aug. 25 are not guaranteed “due to anticipated attendance,” the command noted.
  • Use the link provided in the RSVP confirmation email to ask permission to join AFGSC’s private event Facebook group.
  • Once membership in the Facebook group is approved, “they’ll be able to view everything live from the comfort of Facebook, wherever they choose to watch,” Rigby said. Videos of each symposium session will also be posted in the group so individuals who can’t watch them live can still access the content at their convenience, she added.

20th Air Force initially founded the event, but AFGSC adapted it into a Majcom-wide endeavor so 8th Air Force Airmen could also take part, Rigby explained. The first two all-AFGSC events were held in 2017 and 2018, respectively, at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., she said.

“We have a leadership team that is dialed into these issues, that is supportive, and that wants to hear our voices,” Rigby said. “Getting to work closely with [AFGSC Commander] Gen. [Timothy M.] Ray and see his vision for [the] Women’s Leadership Symposium has just been phenomenal, and I just wanna let everyone know that … from the top down, you have a team that is looking out for you, that is engaged in this, and wants to continue events like this.”

Air Force Global Strike Command originally planned to hold the event in-person at Barksdale in March, but had to postpone it due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Rigby said, by reworking the event to rise to the coronavirus challenge, the command ended up dramatically expanding its reach.

“Platforms such as Zoom [and] Facebook Live gave us exactly what we needed to reach a larger audience, do it virtually, and the benefit of that is we don’t have to have folks travel during the current pandemic, and we can also reach a much larger audience than we originally forecast to have live here at Barksdale,” she said.