WINCHESTER, Va. – A panel of women from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division workforce raised their voices during The Power of Women in the Workforce Diversity, Equity and Inclusion event held Dec. 3.
The virtual event hosted by Major General Kimberly M. Colloton, Transatlantic Division commanding general, and John L. Adams, Senior Executive Service and Programs and Business Director, continued a series of DE&I Program events reinforcing the Division’s commitment to ensuring diversity, equity and inclusion remain business as usual.
The panel of speakers included Ingrid Howard, Transatlantic Division regional lead engineer; Kimberly Sanders, Transatlantic Middle East District Foreign Military Sales section chief and program manager; Margaret Jones Transatlantic Expeditionary District Deputy District Engineer; Rachael Raposa, Regional Contracting Chief; and Sara Robert, Transatlantic Division executive officer.
The panelists spoke on topics such as mentorship, gender-based obstacles in the workplace, professional expectations, personal aspirations and what the future looks like for organizations as women continue to “lean in” in the workplace.
Colloton opened the event by highlighting the importance of getting to know those we work with on a deeper level.
“We often look to our organizational charts and professional biographies to learn about the leaders and professionals we work with,” Colloton stated in her opening remarks.
“But those never tell us about who the people are beneath the bio, how they feel about what they do, the obstacles they may have faced along the way or what they would share with leaders who are looking to them as a roadmap for their own career journeys.
“So today,” Colloton continued, “we are going to get beneath the bio, beneath the surface, and hear these professionals raise their voices on challenging and very inspiring topics.”
The panelists then spent more than an hour answering questions and sharing their experiences, challenges and advice with Colloton, Adams and the Division workforce.
Shortly after the event, the panelists shared their thoughts on why the open discussion was essential to continuing the progress of equity and inclusion in the workforce.
“These types of events are necessary if we want change,” Raposa said. “We need to make the unconscious conscious when it comes to any type of bias. Inequality didn’t happen overnight and it will not get better without events like these.”
Sanders, who joined the discussion from Qatar, added onto this by stating that these conversations, although uncomfortable, were necessary for a team to learn from their biases, work through them and ultimately get beyond them.
“Verna Myers tells us that, “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance,” Sanders stated. “Events like this show that our senior leaders are active participants in our team becoming more inclusive by embracing and implementing input from our diverse workforce.”
Howard, who works from Winchester, Va., added that this event brought up an awareness for employees and supervisors, showing that the senior leadership wants to hear our voices on a deeper systematic level.
Robert, who works closely with the Division leadership, said she was proud to work for an organization where senior leaders not only supported these programs, but actively encouraged and participated.
The workforce attending the event provided a continuous flow of positive feedback and appreciation in real time via chat as the panelists shared their experiences and advice.
“Motivating and moving discussion, truly amazing examples of the power of women in and out of the workplace! You are all amazing pioneers and leaders in the efforts to break down social barriers and norms,” typed Steven Terrell, Transatlantic Division Human resources chief.
For Lauren Wougk, a Middle East District mechanical engineer, this was her first DE&I event, and it had a powerful impact.
“This was the first DE&I event that I attended, and I am so glad I did. I learned so much about my colleagues at TAD, and I’ve never admired people so much or been so inspired before,” Wougk said.
“I had one of those surreal moments where I really felt a part of a team and felt a part of something bigger. Both men and women were sharing their honest thoughts and experiences about how a gender biased system has affected them. I realized that it affects everyone, not just women,” Wougk continued.
“One message that spoke out most to me was when Margaret Jones was talking about what she wanted to be when she grew up and the only thing holding her back was herself. I took this as – any obstacle or challenge that may come between us and our goals can be overcome if we put our minds to it. It goes back to that old saying that if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”
Colloton echoed Wougk’s sentiments on being a part of a team in her closing remarks.
“It is important as a team that we get to know each other better and we are just so lucky to have you all as a part of our workforce family,” Colloton said. “We all should think about how we help each other grow personally and professionally. We all have growing to do, and we can do that best when we support each other, when we open up seats at the table, and when we broaden our understanding through conversations like this.
“And for our audience,” Colloton added, “thank you for joining us for this powerful discussion. We hope this inspires more conversations as we continue to strengthen our workforce through our commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion!”
Jones summed up the event with a final message.
“We must continue to speak out and raise our voices,” Jones said, “so that those who do not believe they have a voice can be heard.”
A full recording of the LIVE event is available at