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AFSOC to host first virtual Women’s Leadership Symposium

AFSOC to host first virtual Women’s Leadership Symposium

Air Force Special Operations Command will host a virtual Women’s Leadership Symposium, Oct. 28-29, the first event of its kind in AFSOC, aimed at sparking productive discussions about the increasing and evolving role of women in the special operations community. The theme for this year’s symposium is “Courageous Leaders – Effective Mentors,” and will feature four key note sessions and eight different, smaller breakout sessions during the two-day symposium. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Marty Schaeffer)

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. --

Air Force Special Operations Command will host a virtual Women’s Leadership Symposium, Oct. 28-29.

The AWLS is the first event of its kind in AFSOC, aimed at sparking productive discussions about the increasing and evolving role of women in the special operations community.

The theme for this year’s symposium is “Courageous Leaders – Effective Mentors,” and will feature four key note sessions and eight different, smaller breakout sessions during the two-day symposium.

“This forum promotes the deliberate development of our leaders and future leaders by providing awareness and tools to cultivate inclusive practices,” said Sanora Smaller, AFSOC’s Diversity and Inclusion specialist and lead for the symposium. “This is not a women’s event, it is geared at equipping all AFSOC personnel with mentoring tools to promote a more inclusive culture. It will also provide insight and awareness of the challenges and best practices with which females contend integrating into operational roles.”

One of the main objectives of the symposium is to provide leaders of all backgrounds the tools to integrate gender diversity more fully into their ranks. With this in mind, one of the keynote sessions will include Drs. Brad Johnson and David Smith, co-authors of “Athena Rising,” a book on how and why men should mentor women. 

“They address some of the underlying biases and gender norms that make mentorships so important and challenging, said Smaller. “Their information is backed by years of research.”

Additionally, the event looks to support inclusion initiatives laid out by the Air Force and AFSOC’s most recent strategic guidance. U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Jim Slife, commander of AFSOC, will also participate in the symposium as a keynote speaker.

The symposium breakout sessions are limited to 200 members and the keynote sessions will be open to up to 1,000 AFSOC personnel. Keynote session login information will be made available via the command’s SharePoint. The symposium will also be recorded and available for Air Commandos to view following the event.

“This symposium will open up a more coherent conversation across all ranks,” said one of the lead committee members. “It will help teach leaders what inherent differences in communication and perception may exist between different genders, identify potential miscommunications that may arise out of gender differences, and outline some ways we can empower our teammates despite our differences.”