Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Frost

SOUTH CHINA SEA – Sailors aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) gathered in the ship’s training room complex for a monthly women’s leadership meeting, May 9.
The women’s leadership meeting is an inclusive forum for all Sailors to voice their opinions about a variety of topics.
“The women’s leadership meeting is informal, positive, open and accepting,” said Chief Aviation Maintenance Adminstrationman Wannise Burch, from Virginia Beach, Va., the meeting’s coordinator. “The goal is to get everyone to discuss their issues.”
Burch remembers the challenges she went through as a junior Sailor, such as being a single mother.
“I wanted to take that experience and help Sailors … by giving them an outlet,” said Burch. “I like that we can all come together as Sailors and mentor each other.”
The topics of the meeting ranged from sexual assault prevention to how to inspire Sailors. Over the course of an hour, everyone in attendance, junior and senior, added to the conversation.
“We have all different ranks and demographics from all over the country, and everybody has a different perspective,” said Chief Yeoman Kristin Zimmer, from Crystal River, Fla.
Zimmer added that having such a wide variety of opinions helps members explore those different perspectives and get a deeper understanding of how issues affect each other.
“I came without knowing exactly what it was,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 3rd Class Jamesha Evans, from Savannah, Ga. “[The meeting] is a good place to discuss any topic openly. It helps reinforce being a positive role model, whether educating my Sailors about sexual assault, or just trying to stay enthusiastic and inspire them.”
All hands, regardless of gender, are invited to discuss leadership and the role of women in today’s Navy.
Only 37 years ago, women were not permitted to serve aboard U.S. Navy ships, now 17 percent of John C. Stennis’ crew is female. Since implementing equal opportunity policies for Sailors, the demographic makeup of the Navy has continuously trended closer to that of the U.S. work force, which is currently about 47 percent female.
Providing a ready force supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, John C. Stennis is operating as part of the Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled 7th Fleet deployment.
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