RAFs Lakenheath, Mildenhall Airmen attend Inaugural Women's Leadership Forum

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- Nearly a week after International Women's Day and as a part of women's history month, eight Liberty Wing members, ranging  from pilots to health professionals, represented RAFs Lakenheath and Mildenhall at the inaugural Women in Aerospace, Defence and Intelligence Leadership Forum, in London, England, March 14.

Colonel Robyn Slade, U.S. Air Forces in Europe-United Kingdom deputy director, served as a panel member, along with four other leaders from the U.K. and U.S.

Panel members were arranged on stage, in front of an audience of more than 100 women and men.  Audience questions pertained to the panel members' experiences as leaders, what they believe leadership is and how to initiate conversations about issues and concerns that women still face in the workplace today.

The panel, chaired by Dr. Suzy Walton, board member of the Institute of Directors, was made up of women in various leadership positions, for example, the British Aerospace Electronic Systems director of applied intelligence laboratories, a strategic communication and industry engagement specialist from the Pentagon, as well as the director of general finance from the Ministry of Defence.

Each of the panel members gave advice and information about issues impacting women in the defense industry. Walton explained leadership as, "Having the courage to try," and Slade explained how important it is for leaders to build relationships in the workplace. Slade said it's a leader's job, male or female, "to help people see the possibilities."

"We were so pleased with the Women in Aerospace, Defence and Intelligence inaugural event and received an enormous amount of positive feedback from both the speakers who participated and those who attended," said Shenoa Simpson, manager, The Strategy Group, KPMG. "Many of the British people who attended commented on how interesting it was to hear the American perspective on women's leadership in the sector and felt as though the conversation could have easily continued another hour or two."

Panel members also provided personal experiences from their careers. While many of these women come from different backgrounds and careers, they have had similar experiences.

A story one of the panel members told the audience was about an experiment a college class went through where the class was separated into two groups. One group was given a résumé in which a male name was at the top and the exact same résumé labeled with a female name was given to the other group. The students were tasked to provide comments about why they would or wouldn't want to work for this person. When the results came back, the students were floored when they found out comments on the males résumé talked about him being a 'visionary' and 'leader' while the female comments were called 'bossy' and 'overbearing'.

While many important issues were raised, like women's pay in the workplace and being treated equally, based on merit, the discussion also focused on how to effect change with these mental attitudes and how to break away from stereotypes. The panel members agreed that women can encourage change by believing in themselves, but also by recognizing that there is much room for improvement for women's positions in the workplace, even in 2016.

After the discussion wrapped up, audience members were able to further discuss their experiences about being women in the defense industry. Attendees from RAFs Lakenheath and Mildenhall also provided feedback on the forum.

"I appreciated the esteemed panel members' discussions and insight on leadership stemming from their diverse experiences working in defense, aerospace, and intelligence industries," said Maj. Seanna Less, 352nd Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander.  "Their open and honest dialogue about their successes and challenges was inspirational and gave me different perspectives on leadership that I will be able to convey to others."