News | April 3, 2015

Weaving the Stories of Women's Lives: NSA's First Women's Summit

As part of NSA's celebration of Women's History Month in March, NSA's Office of Equal Employment Opportunity & Diversity and the Women Employee Resource Group hosted NSA's first Women's Summit on Tuesday, 24 March 2015.

In accordance with the national theme set each year for Women's History Month by the National Women's History Project, the Summit's theme was "Weaving the Stories of Women's Lives to Inspire, Empower, and Connect."

NSA's Center for Cryptologic History Historian Betsy Rohaly Smoot wove the opening of the summit with a number of stories of women in cryptology. She gave a thorough overview and personal insights into "A Century of American Women in Cryptology." Smoot included stories documented by well-known NSA women such as Ann Caracristi, NSA's first female deputy director, and personal letters from lesser-known female pioneers in cryptology like Genevieve Young Hitt, considered the first woman to serve the U.S. government as a cryptologist.

In the afternoon, Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence, Stephanie O'Sullivan, and the Assistant Director of National Intelligence for Policy & Strategy, Dawn R. Eilenberger, engaged in the keynote discussion with NSA's Executive Director Corin Stone about their experiences as breakers of "glass ceilings" in their fields and organizations.

What really impressed Stone, she told O'Sullivan and Eilenberger, is that "you don't dwell on the obstacles."

Eilenberger spoke about respecting work roles that differ from your own, and being open to change and difference. "If your experience isn't living up to what you want, then change it," she said.

O'Sullivan explained how both women and men "must find your own work-life balance," which may differ from that of peers and colleagues. "It's not how late you stay; it's what you accomplish."

Stone pointed out one of the EEOD points of emphasis: "Diversity of thought and experience isn't just the right thing to do, it's the bright thing to do. There is a good business case for diversity, and it helps us better accomplish our mission."

In addition to the morning and afternoon presentations, the more than 250 attendees of the women's summit attended breakout sessions of their choosing, with topics that included Diversity & Harassment Awareness, Women in STEM, "What Happens When Generations Collide?", and College Programs.

Both men and women in the agency attended the summit to enrich the conversation about diversity issues, recognize the unique challenges faced by women, generate larger and bolder thinking, and take advantage of the networking opportunities afforded by the breakout sessions.

The summit's sponsors, NSA's Office of Equal Employment Opportunity & Diversity and its Employee Resource Group program, work to promote an inclusive work environment at NSA, with the goal of supporting communication, personal and professional development, and diversity of perspective. These efforts are a part of ADM Michael Rogers' – Commander, U.S. Cyber Command; Director, National Security Agency; and Chief, Central Security Service – push for diversity and equality within the Agency. In September 2014, ADM Rogers also created a new position of Senior Advisor for Equality at NSA/CSS.