Charting your course while helping others navigate theirs
Posted by PA2 Diana Honings, Friday, March 31, 2017
Closing out Women’s History Month, the Fifth Annual Bay Area Women’s Leadership Symposium brought together presenters and participates from a diversity of experience, background, and specialties.
Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory Mendenhall
Early-morning light poured in through the historic gymnasium’s windows as officers, enlisted members and civilians from around the Bay Area trickled in and made their way to their seats.
Held at Coast Guard Island in Alameda, California, the symposium has become a beacon for the advancement and support of women in the Coast Guard and beyond.
This year’s theme, “Charting your course while helping others navigate theirs,” illustrates the emphasis not only on developing the ability to lead others, but also on the importance of personal development.
“We rarely take the time to take a step back and think about ourselves,” said retired Vice Adm. Jody Breckenridge, a former Pacific Area commander. “We’re so busy with our day-to-day lives that we don’t take time out for us, but that’s what today is going to be all about.”
The symposium featured speakers, panels and workshops designed to empower attendees to navigate their careers while elevating the morale and productivity of those around them.
“Events like this are important for all members within the organization to learn new ways of being effective, successful leaders,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Dawn Stephens, the 11th Coast Guard District’s command master chief, who served as the event’s master of ceremonies.
The panels, which featured Coast Guard officers and enlisted members, as well as civilian employees, provided the opportunity to share ideas, inspiration and experience from a diverse cross section of women navigating different points in their careers.
“It was inspiring as a non-rate to hear stories from those who have been there and to learn from their experience,” said Seaman Andrew McKenna, one of many men in attendance. “I feel like it brought us together as Coast Guard members.”
Regardless of the variations in age, rate, rank and career path, symposium attendees learned the basic nature of the challenges they face and the means to overcome them are similar.
“Learning that everyone else struggles with some of the same issues is huge in removing some of the stigma and stress we place on ourselves, in thinking that we’re the only ones going through professional challenges,” said Stephens.
Following the panels, Liz Wiseman, author and keynote speaker, spoke to the audience about the qualities and characteristics of effective leaders.
“The best leaders aren’t geniuses, they’re genius makers,” said Wiseman. “They aren’t just challengers, they are serial challengers who bring out the best in the people around them.”
Wherever attendees found themselves in their careers, the lessons rang true.
“This has been a unique and beneficial experience,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Jillian Sather, a yeoman at Base Alameda. “I’m so glad I was able to attend.”
This year’s symposium, coordinated and sponsored by the Coast Guard Women’s Organization for Recognition, Leadership and Development (CG WORLD) and the Women’s Leadership Initiative, proved to be a valuable opportunity for women and men alike to gather, learn, network and further develop their leadership skills.
In closing her remarks, Breckenridge posed a few simple questions that when asked often, can ensure consistent progress along the path to becoming effective and accomplished leaders.
“Think about – who am I? What kind of leader am I? Where do I want to be, and how do I get there?”