Women Veterans Leadership Conference
By Ashleigh Bryant
The first women elected as a DAV Department-level Commander, Delphine Metcalf-Foster (center), joined by DAV National Deputy Legislative Director Joy Ilem (left) and Legislative Research Consultant Amy Hogan (right), is a special guest speaker at the California VA’s annual Women Veterans Leadership Conference, “A Call to Service; A Call to Action.”
At more than 167,000, the population of women veterans in the state of California is by far the largest in the country. With such a large concentration, the state has become a model for developing many programs and services that cater specifically to women. Next on the radar is a strategy for empowering women veterans to take on leadership roles within veterans’ service organizations, as well as in their local communities and beyond.
This October, the California Department of Veterans Affairs will tackle this issue at its annual Women Veterans Leadership Conference, entitled “A Call to Service; A Call to Action.” The one-day conference in Sacramento, Calif., is packed with information on starting a business, running for public office and harnessing an individual’s talents to benefit others.
“A strong presence of women leaders keeps us on point and relevant to serve the changing needs of the future veterans community,” said National Adjutant Arthur H. Wilson. “DAV has always been out front on women veterans’ issues, and we are proud to have seen some truly exemplary women rise through the ranks of DAV. It’s a trend we want to see continue, and this kind of effort helps promote that.”
Indeed, it takes the entire organization to foster the evolution of leadership. California’s Deputy Secretary for Women Veterans Affairs, Lindsey Sin, said she has been impressed at the support largely male–dominated veterans groups have offered women taking on leadership roles.
“In states where there are large veteran populations and among organizations like DAV, we’ve already seen some really great shining examples of women who have taken charge, whether they have become state commanders or they work on a national level,” said Sin. “These are clear examples of the entire veterans community supporting their efforts.”
Seven Department-level DAV Commanders are women veterans, and through focused outreach the population of female members continues to climb, bringing highly valued leadership potential. Delphine Metcalf-Foster was one such trailblazer for DAV. A retired Army first sergeant and a veteran of Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield, she was the first woman to be elected as a Department Commander in DAV history in 2004 for the Department of California. In addition, she was elected to DAV’s National Board of Directors from 2010 to 2012, and served as its Treasurer.
“It isn’t about creating division between men and women veterans,” said Metcalf-Foster. “Our service is equitable, it’s our perspectives that differ. And that is what makes our collaboration so great when we work together as veterans, representing and encompassing the population as a whole.”
Metcalf-Foster, who also serves as a member of the VA Advisory Committee on Women Veterans in California, was tapped to speak to attendees at the leadership conference, along with other leaders in the women veterans’ community.
One problematic issue addressed at the conference is that many veterans are eager to become involved, but are unsure how. The result is typically inaction or a high number of small-scale efforts. Sin said she hopes the conference, and ultimately her department, will serve as a hub to connect women veterans and promote better collaboration and community leadership. She is also encouraging VSO representatives to attend the conference to more actively engage and recruit the untapped women veterans population for membership.
“I would like to encourage individuals to join a veterans service organization,” said Sin. “I think VSOs like DAV are really key to getting veterans involved in their communities and working through a larger national organization that does, in fact, make a huge impact on veterans issues and is very influential.”
To learn more about the annual California State Department of Veterans Affairs 2012 Women Veterans Leadership Conference, visit www.calvet.ca.gov/womenminority/Conference.aspx