Adm. Tidd prepared remarks: Women in Military and Security Conference (WIMCON)
Guatemala City, Guatemala
July 11, 2017
Good morning…Buenos Días…Bom Dia!
Estimado General Perez, representantes distinguidos, vecinos, y amigos – es un verdadero placer estar aquí con ustedes en esta conferencia tan importante. Les agradezco a todos por participar en lo que será un intercambio de ideas y perspectivas muy vigoroso.
With that, I’ve reached the limits of my beginner’s Spanish. I’m told I get a little better with each conference, but please indulge me as I continue my comments in English.
Let me start by thanking our gracious co-hosts General Perez and the Guatemalan Armed Forces, for all the hard work leading up to this historic conference.
I’d also like to thank our panel participants and presenters for agreeing to share their expertise and insights.
And while they explicitly told me not to recognize them, I’m going to make the unwise decision to ignore a United States Navy Master Chief Petty Officer—probably at my own peril! But I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank Ms. Stephanie Roman and Master Chief Diane Tortora for their tireless efforts to help pull together this important conference. They’ve set a very high standard for all future conferences.
I’d also like to thank all of you for participating in this important work. The agenda of this conference may be a discussion of women in the military, but this isn’t just a women’s issue. We’re here to work through something much larger than that.
As I said in my letter of invitation, what we are going to talk about this week is, fundamentally, “Commanders’ business.” Let me say that again – what we are talking about is “Commanders’ business.”
We’re here to talk about our future, and the future of our forces. Many of you know this is an issue I care personally, and very deeply, about. I’ve talked about it in previous conferences, but it bears repeating.
We’re here because we know we must adapt in the face of complex missions facing our men and women. Experience has shown us that real success and our operational effectiveness depends on more than just our military capabilities. Our success and our effectiveness lie in accepting and valuing differences as strengths.
When we value diversity of thought and experience, we become stronger, more creative, and more cohesive. When we respect different opinions, we build trust and mutual confidence with the people around us. When we can include perspectives outside our own boundaries, we’re better able to reach consensus, foster cooperation, and succeed as one.
This isn’t a “nice to do.” This isn’t about “checking a box” or meeting a quota. It’s about something far more meaningful than mere words, or the appearance of change.
So what are we really talking about? We’re talking about achieving value-added inclusion.
This involves creating a wider definition and vision of who “we” are as modern, effective military teams, and who can – and should -- be part of the better future we forge, together.
For some of us – and I want to explicitly include myself in this category – this will involve a change in culture or mindset…in small ways and large. While ambitious, our goal is to “mainstream” these ideas, to make them so normal and accepted that we no longer need a dedicated conference to talk about them. We will have completely internalized them — they are just a part of our identity and culture — a part of who we are, what we do, how we think, and how we behave.
Some of you have much greater experience at this than others—you’ve been wrestling with it longer, and have already confronted many of the issues we’re going to discuss over the next two days.
For some of us (my service and the U.S. armed forces included), we still have challenges to overcome, stereotypes to vanquish, and issues to resolve. We have a lot to learn from one another.
So if that’s why we’re here, what should we hope to gain in the next two days?
To put this year’s conference in perspective, I’d like to revisit the three pledges I made at last year’s conference.
The first was to bring a dedicated and operationally experienced gender advisor, which I’ve happily done. The second was to encourage last year’s participants to develop their own national action plans, and this year we’re going to dedicate part of this conference to discussing our progress on this important issue. Finally, I promised to encourage regional security forces to recognize the gender dimensions of issues like human trafficking and commodity smuggling by criminal networks, which we’ve worked hard to do at every opportunity.
This year, I want to challenge us to do just one thing—one very significant thing: Let’s challenge ourselves to do better at collecting and sharing data on gender integration—to help ‘tell our story’—so we know how far we’ve come, and how far we still need to go.
How are we measuring progress? What are the meaningful, collectable numbers that demonstrate real change?
I think we would all agree that there are only two really meaningful characteristics that matter, and they are competence, and character. But how do we measure true competence? How do we attach a number to real character?
Ideally, a discussion on data should include ideas for developing a better way to measure performance, and on applying objective standards for entry and qualification into our security teams. I’d offer that any conversation about standards has got to go far beyond simplistic measures of muscle strength and endurance.
Of course these attributes are important, but how do we capture more comprehensive measurements of intellectual, professional, and character qualities as well? How do we objectively measure tenacity, commitment to mission; creativity; and the ability to build cohesive, effective teams?
These are the characteristics our men and women need to succeed in the missions they are likely to face. So it’s up to us, as leaders, to ensure our forces have everything they need to succeed, and win—the right equipment, the right training, and the right mix of skills and experience.
These are challenging topics. For us to make real progress, we all have to go outside our comfort zones. We have to push ourselves, expand our intellectual horizons, and tear down our preconceived notions.
To help with that, the set-up for this year’s conference is very different. You’ll see that even the seating is different. That’s by design—we want to break down barriers to conversation. Our goal is to foster more candid and interactive discussions about these important topics. Conversations that are honest and meaningful can build mutual trust and confidence in our shared goals. We accomplish more, together, when we trust one another.
We’re also doing something else—something we don’t normally do in a ‘military’ conference. We’re leaving our rank at the door. Inside this room, we’re all equals with an equal right to speak our minds, share our ideas, and respect each other’s opinions.
As commanders, we will be working alongside our gender advisors, to help us build the kind of professional teams that we’re going to need if we hope to achieve the ambitious goals we’ve set for ourselves.
I, for one, have never been to a conference like this…so I’m looking forward to the opportunity to push my own boundaries. And I hope you are, too.
So let’s get to work! Manos a la obra!!