March 20, 2014, EVERETT, Wash. (NNS) – Naval Station Everett hosted the 2014 Everett Surface Force Women’s Waterfront Symposium, presented by Commander, Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet, for Sailors stationed in the Pacific Northwest, March 19.
The symposium included a speech by Rear Adm. Bette Bolivar, commander, Navy Region Northwest, presentations by the Bureau of Naval Personnel and the Office of Women’s Policy, as well as panel discussions on “Women and Leadership at Sea” and “Opportunity, Advancement, and Balance” featuring many senior naval officers and chief petty officers.
Bolivar addressed the standing room-only crowd before the presentations began. She emphasized the Navy’s need to tap the knowledge and talent of female Sailors and answered questions about her life and naval career.
“A [country’s] Navy is most effective when it harnesses every applicable resource the nation has to offer… most importantly its human resources,” said Bolivar. “When you leave women out, you’re literally leaving out half your available resources.”
During the panel discussion on “Women and Leadership at Sea,” the panel of senior naval leaders discussed topics including what the symposium’s themes of “Networking and Forging Bonds” meant to them, managing career and family, and adversity the women have faced during their careers.
“I had everything thrown at me,” said Master Chief Electronics Technician (SW) Robyn Verdin, from Columbus, Ohio, officer in charge, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility Detachment Everett. “You can’t do this, you won’t do this, you’re black, you’re a female. You need to react appropriately; don’t let someone make you someone you’re not.”
All five members of the panel emphasized the importance of mentors on their careers and that a mentor can take multiple forms.
“I’ve had some amazing mentors during my career, but they haven’t always been my superiors,” said Lt. Stephanie Simoni, from Stewartstown, Penn. “Mentors can be subordinates, civilian friends, and especially family. Use whatever resources are available to you.”
Gas Turbine System Technician (Electrical) 2nd Class Jose Brown, from New York, was one of several male Sailors in the audience and was grateful for the opportunity to learn more about his female co-workers.
“The whole thing was a real eye opener,” said Brown. “I’ve seen and heard about a lot of the things they discussed, but I’d never heard it discussed so openly between junior and senior Sailors. This was really the first time I got a peek into their world.”
Yeoman 3rd Class Januarie Strong, from Philadelphia, who aspires to be an officer someday, hopes that she can use information gleaned from the women at the symposium to further develop her current and future leadership style.
“I was a special education teacher before I came into the Navy, so I feel as if I know how to sculpt young minds,” said Strong. “What I have trouble with is sculpting adult minds. What I’ve learned today I hope I can apply to my life both personally and professionally, as well as continue to reach out to my mentors and learn from them.