COLUMBUS, Ohio –
The Defense Federal Community celebrated Women’s Equality Day with a virtual observance Aug. 26 featuring military and civilian panelists from across the Defense Logistics Agency team.
Women’s Equality Day is officially commemorated annually on Aug. 26 nationwide to coincide with the anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote. The theme of this month’s observance was “Courage, Risk, Change.”
“Throughout the suffragette movement door-to-door campaigns were launched to build support, monuments were erected, trails were dedicated, and many books and documentary projects have been written - all to memorialize the efforts of women who contributed to furthering America’s prosperity and values,” said Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime Commander Navy Rear Adm. Kristen Fabry, opening the program. “All these efforts reflect the dedication and commitment from women across our nation fighting for and ultimately succeeding in securing our right to have our voices equally represented in national discourse.”
DLA Land and Maritime’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity hosted the event in conjunction with the Federal Women’s Program. Following opening remarks, Special Emphasis Programs manager and event moderator Anita Jones introduced the four featured panelists and launched into a series of thought-provoking questions. The panelists were DLA Land and Maritime Deputy Chief Counsel Katherine Sweat, J6 Information Operations’ Customer Experience Directorate Deputy Director Kari Riskedahl, Maritime Customer Operations’ Readiness Officer Navy Cdr. Brandolyn Roberts and DLA Training’s Career Management Division Chief Lashana Crone.
Questions ranged from ways to promote equality within the workplace to panelists’ experiences with finding courage and taking risks.
“Frankly, I don’t think a business could survive today if it didn’t strive for equality and inclusivity,” stated Riskedahl in response to a question on further steps companies can take toward equality. “With that said, it’s still difficult for women and other minorities to have their voices heard and to find a seat at the table. It’s part of our leadership matrix to provide and demand more opportunities for minorities.”
When asked how an organization is enhanced by encouraging greater awareness of gender inequality, panelist Katherine Sweat hit on topics such as the pay gap and “broken rung” that limit an organization’s talent pool and ultimately it’s bottom line. “Increasing awareness of women’s experiences and challenges in the workplace is foundational to changing attitudes about gender bias. Organizations and individuals often understandably and appropriately tout the progress of women in the workplace, yet sometimes they discount the numerous inequalities that women still face.”
Citing the importance of addressing workplace bias, Sweat shared conclusions from a 2020 report by McKinsey & Company that surveyed 1,000 companies for diversity and inclusion impacts to business performance.
“Organizations that actively support gender equality tend to make better decisions,” Sweat said. “Let me state that another way: inclusive, diverse teams make better business decisions. This type of organization also attracts better talent and retains that talent, which means an increase in your bench strength and in your institutional knowledge.”
Panelist Lashana Crone responded to a question posed about experiences with inequality during her career and offered a different perspective.
“I haven’t knowingly experienced inequality in my career and my career path hasn’t been hindered because I’m a woman,” Crone said. “When I think about how I’ve progressed in my career through the years, I’ve been very, very fortunate. What I would like to say today though is that I don’t want my testimony to be the exception…that should be the norm.”
Crone said her position as a leader includes the responsibility of mentoring all members of her team – men and women alike. “Everyones voice matters. As I continue to get the opportunity to lead, my goal is to continue to be the change that I want to see – to lift as I climb.”
Returning to the program’s theme, panelist Brandolyn Roberts shared her views on finding courage and taking risks.
“I think being vulnerable is a risk in itself – we have to dig deep for courage,” she said, recounting how her childhood experience as a sexual assault survivor has impacted her leadership approach.
In a past assignment aboard a Navy destroyer already underway, Roberts was once asked to keep watch over a subordinate accused of sexually molesting his daughter until investigators could collect him. There was a concern he would hurt himself. Roberts said she was first unsure that she could handle it given her past and nearly asked to be released from the assignment but words her captain said stopped her. “He looked at me and said, ‘Brandi this is the front we bear as leaders – we must put our personal emotions aside and deal with the circumstance at hand.’”
Roberts said the experience ended up being “one of the most profound in my career for growth personally and professionally and it made me into an empathetic leader.”
Following several more questions posed to the panelists, Federal Women’s Program Co-Executive Champion Veronica Brown-Godbott delivered closing remarks thanking all participants for their “honesty, wisdom and leadership to the Defense Federal Community.”
“From risk-takers, to change advocates and innovators, to initiators and negotiators, there is room to use our gifts and our talents at every level.”
Click here to view the full program (CAC-enabled)