Leaders inspire Allied personnel during International Women’s Day conference

The Conference was opened and closed by Lieutenant General Pascal Delerce, Deputy Commander Allied Air Command. Photos by Sébastien Raffin

Exceptional leaders from NATO countries provided insight for 250 personnel from across the Alliance during a virtual conference on  March 8.

To mark International Women’s Day 2021 (#IWD21), inspirational leaders from countries across the NATO Alliance connected with a multinational audience during a virtual conference hosted by Allied Air Command. Speakers included Lieutenant General Frances Allen, the Military Representative of Canada to the Military Committee and Major General Tonje Skinnarland, the Chief of the Royal Norwegian Air Force. The Conference offered an opportunity for over 250 military personnel to discuss topics related to the United Nations’ IWD21 theme, Women in Leadership.

Women and men joined the all-day Zoom Conference from Turkey, Italy, Norway, Spain, Germany and the UK, eager to deepen their understanding of gender perspectives. The open dialogue during the Conference enabled all participants to pose challenging questions to the speakers, including asking how to accelerate more women reaching the highest levels of Command.

During the morning, presentations by Air Vice Marshal Clare Walton of the Royal Air Force and Brigadier General Anne-Cecile Ortemann of the French Army explored inclusivity in leadership and the challenges women can face. The final presentation before lunch saw Command Chief Master Sergeant Hope Skibitsky of the 86th Air Wing share her personal leadership journey.

She highlighted how important it was to believe in yourself and have the confidence to find your voice, noting “As a role model, I know that when I have the courage to speak up during meetings, I encourage and empower others to do so.”

Chief Master Sergeant Hope Skibitsky, Command Chief, U.S. Air Force 86ht Airlift Wing, Ramstein Air Base, presented her view of authentic leadership and the importance of speaking up in order to empower others.

Lieutenant General Frances Allen, Military Representative of Canada to the Military Committee commenced the afternoon program. She spoke about the cross-Government approach adopted by Canada that allows them to be deliberate about gender and diversity.

She was followed by Colonel Adrienne Williams, Commander 521st Air Mobility Wing who highlighted persistence being key in reaching Wing Command in the United States Air Force. A forum of the Command Senior Enlisted Leaders from Allied Air, Maritime and Land Command then discussed how they are approaching the opportunity and challenge of leading tomorrow’s leaders.

The final presentation of the day was provided by Major General Tonje Skinnarland, Chief of the Royal Norwegian Air Force. As the first female Air Chief in NATO, she provided a truly unique perspective and was positive that we would see more women leading Allied Armed Forces in the future. She said, “Diversity matters. It is vital for our competitive edge. We must be able to recruit and retain the best minds to succeed in the future.”

The Conference was opened and closed by Lieutenant General Pascal Delerce, Deputy Commander Allied Air Command, who noted, “Events like this provide a tremendous opportunity for us to build a stronger team. When we have people who understand one another and respect differing perspectives, we can work more effectively together to achieve our common goals.”