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20th Air Force to host second Women’s Leadership Symposium

Twentieth Air Force Women's Leadership Symposium. (U.S. Air Force courtesy graphic)

Twentieth Air Force Women's Leadership Symposium. (U.S. Air Force courtesy graphic)


Nuclear Airmen must be fit to fight and continually develop as leaders to conduct the 24/7 operations of providing the nation with a credible nuclear deterrent. It is a 20th Air Force goal to coach, train and mentor nuclear professionals and leaders, while developing a nuclear command environment that fosters understanding, respect and the support necessary for people to thrive.

The second 20th AF Women’s Leadership Symposium takes place Sept. 26-28, at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. This year, the conference will bring both female and male Airmen in the ranks of E-4 to E-6 and O-1 to O-3 together to hear from senior leaders on career decisions, lessons learned and several leadership topics. 

"Developing tomorrow's ICBM leaders today is a top priority,” said Maj. Gen. Anthony Cotton, 20th AF and Task Force 214 commander. “This leadership symposium is one of several initiatives we provide our Airmen to help them learn and grow as leaders, and what makes this symposium unique is the opportunity to instill in our Airmen an appreciation for diversity as an essential ingredient to building an effective 21st century fighting force."


Capt. Sandra Walker, 20th AF’s ICBM Center of Excellence chief of evaluator training, noted that inviting male Airmen will give them exposure to perspectives and stories of female Airmen in order to spread appreciation and understanding for diversity.


“I think it’s important to educate men about the viewpoints of their female peers because all Airmen are responsible for leading people from different backgrounds,” she said. “We’ll focus on women’s issue, but also leadership as a whole, and spreading that knowledge is invaluable.” 


Symposium briefers from across the military and Department of Defense will coach and candidly converse with attendees as an investment in the future force and to encourage Airmen to choose the Air Force as a career. The intention is to establish long-term mentor and mentee relationships so Airmen are equipped to make informed decisions both on and off duty. 


Current data reflects underrepresentation of women in certain career fields and in leadership roles, and mentorship is vital to retaining female Airmen, according to Chief Master Sgt. Jana Dorvil, Air Force Enlisted Diversity and Inclusion Programs. 


“Events like this are needed to speak to Airmen, regardless of what stage they are at in their life or career, in order to motivate, educate and redirect,” Dorvil said. “When I think of a leader, I think of words like preparation, follower and confidence. A mentor-protégé relationship builds and hones these traits.”


Airmen who attended last year’s symposium discussed topics such as family and work balance and communicating with confidence to help guide them in their own Air Force journeys.


"The symposium built a new tool box of Air Force family support for me, and I’ve maintained relationships with the mentors and friends I met there,” said Capt. Melissa Urbansky, U.S. Strategic Command ICBM force employment planner.


One of the symposium’s goals is to motivate Airmen to remain on active duty to serve in senior NCO and field grade officer ranks. Urbansky said discussing challenges she faced in her career with briefers and participants directly helped her become a better-rounded leader.


“I learned to embrace society’s differences and incorporate various perspectives in decision making, define my own priorities and take pride in myself,” Urbansky said. 


Urbansky added she took what she learned and shared it with fellow Airmen at her home station. This year’s attendees are empowered to impact their culture by sharing their experience and insight with their own units. 


The event’s impact on female Airmen is evident from data collected last year. According to a survey taken by attendees, 100 percent found the information presented to be useful and would choose to attend the symposium again.


On the survey, one attendee wrote, “I am determined to stay in the Air Force.”

Another wrote, “Before this, I was 100 percent getting out. This helped me remember why I joined.”