WASHINGTON D.C. -- The Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army and the Sea Service Leadership Association hosted the 32nd annual Joint Women's Leadership Symposium in Washington D.C. Aug. 22-23. This year's theme was "Building Bridges, Changing Culture," consisting of discussion forums, question and answer panels, practical workshops and speaker spotlights.

"I think it is important for women to understand they have the ability to create bridges and create (an inclusive environment) for both genders," Class of 2021 Cadet Cheyenne Quilter said after attending the event for the first time.

The annual JWLS is the largest gathering of women in uniform in the nation and is committed to providing professional development through networking, education and mentorship of women in the armed forces, civilians, officers, enlisted and cadets.

Quilter is an active member of the Margaret Corbin Forum at the U.S. Military Academy and attended this trip section on behalf of the cadet organization. The Corbin Forum was established in 1976 by West Point to provide an opportunity for female cadets to discuss their experiences and their historic integration into the Corps of Cadets. Since then, it has expanded to provide all cadets the opportunity to discuss gender-related issues within the academy.

"We certainly would like cadets to have the opportunity to participate in the Joint Women's Leadership Symposium again in the future as the topics are relevant and timely," Lt. Col. Lolita Burrell, the Corbin Forum officer in charge, said.

Burrell said the JWLS is just one example of conferences of interest that will discuss topics and address issues that align with the Corbin Forum's mission and can provide value to the academy and the Army.

Following the JWLS was the Service Specific Forum. Quilter attended the Army Leadership Academy Forum where the agenda included sessions on "Leading in a Changing World of Modernization and Transformation," "Opening Doors, Changing Policies: A Personal & Professional Journey of an Army Officer and the Reigning 2019 Ms. Colorado," a work-life balance fireside chat and "Army Talent Management."

Guest speakers included 1st Lt. Angela May DiMatta, the reigning Ms. Colorado; Brig. Gen. Jill Faris, deputy surgeon general for Army National Guard Department of the Army; Dr. Tara Phelps-Jones, detailed inspector general U.S. Army Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command; and the Honorable James E. McPherson, senior officer performing the duties of the Under Secretary of the Army.

Quilter said that DiMattia's session left a significant impact on her by demonstrating what a confident, professional, poised and effective communicator should be. Quilter said she believed DiMattia's presentation was also relatable and engaging.

DiMattia discussed her transformation from a young girl of humble beginnings, to a confident leader in today's Army. She stressed the importance of possessing poise, being well-rounded and helping Army families. She is the first active duty Soldier to win the title of Ms. Colorado.

"Understanding that you do not need to be overly loud to communicate your message effectively is something I think I struggle with as a leader, especially during Cadet Basic Training as a squad leader," Quilter said.
Quilter aims to develop her leadership style by taking DiMattia's advice to remain poised while communicating effectively with her team.

"One of the goals for Corbin (Forum) this year is to reach beyond just West Point, so we created the Athena Rising Council that works with the other service academies to create an all-women's academy council," Quilter said. "We are bridging the gap between services in an effort to transfer knowledge about gender integration and inclusion more effectively."

Women have and will continue to play vital roles in today's Army. At the culmination of the JWLS, 17 civilians, officers, noncommissioned officers and enlisted women were recognized for their excellence, high levels of performance, service and mission accomplishment by receiving the Joint Women's Leadership Meritorious Service Award.