NEWPORT, R.I. — March is Women’s History Month, and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport is celebrating it by highlighting the achievements of women here and nationally while also keeping an eye to the future.
“This is an opportunity for us to learn from the accomplishments of women in the past and respect what’s occurring today at NUWC,” Federal Women’s Program (FWP) Manager Sally Camara, head, Development, Assessment and Sustainment Division in the Ranges, Engineering and Analysis Department, said. “We’re making great strides, but we definitely have a way to go. That’s the same in other areas — with minorities, for example.
“It’s a cultural change and those are the toughest changes. The key is action and how people think. Luckily, we’re all growing in a command that believes in this, supports it and is 100 percent about skills and having the best person for the job in spite of any barrier.”
Camara, who celebrated 34 years at NUWC Newport on March 6, has seen her share of changes during her career and noted how women have taken an increasingly more prominent role in driving those changes over time. Currently, women comprise a little more than 23 percent of NUWC Newport’s workforce.
“What I’ve seen most is more females moving into STEM-type positions, and I also witnessed more females in leadership roles,” Camara said. “I’ve seen women more confident in leadership roles and more willing to pursue positions that they may not have been comfortable pursuing 20 years ago.”
Various guest speakers and displays will highlight a sample of those achievements. A display case in one building’s lobby has been populated with artifacts and acknowledgements to the women who have helped shape NUWC. Among the items on display are some of the 365 patents held by 147 women at NUWC Newport, including Susan Safford’s broadband monopole antenna and Dr. Kim Cipolla’s tether retraction device. A series of posters also highlight NUWC Newport employees in the Sea Mentoring Program, as well as famous women who have served in the Navy and government, from Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to naval engineer Raye Montague, who created the first computer-generated draft of a ship.
The FWP also has a speaker series planned for March, which began on March 11 with Naval War College professor Dr. Joan Johnson-Freese and her talk, “What is the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, Women as Agents for Change and What to do Next.”
On Wednesday, March 20, Ann Turley, head, Surface Ship and Aviation Systems Division in the Sensors and Sonar Department, will moderate NUWC Newport’s version of “Hidden Figures,” a 2016 book by Margot Lee Shetterly about three African-American women who were working as mathematicians at NASA during the Space Race. The book was adapted into a film and released in the same year. Turley’s talk titled “Hidden and not so Hidden Figures” will focus on the accomplishments of women at NUWC.
On Monday, March 25, Lt. Laura Towles, coordinator for the Enlisted Women in Submarines Program, will lead a panel of female submariners.
“She’s going to give a presentation and share some of her experiences,” Camara said. “We’re also going to be conducting a panel discussion with a question-and-answer session to learn what it’s like to be a female submariner.”
While Camara was selected as the FWP manager, she emphasized that it has been a team effort planning events for Women’s History Month and the future.
“I have a real energetic, enthusiastic, hard-working committee and we get a lot of support from the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Office,” Camara said. “This is an awesome group of people and on April 3 after Women’s History Month we’re going to start, on a quarterly basis, opening up our forum and inviting anyone from around the base to come and join our meetings and provide ideas. We want our forum to be inclusive of all so we get all kinds of information and ideas.”
Camara also noted that Kaplan and Desanto have spearheaded an effort in collaboration with the Recruiting and Student Outreach Program in the Corporate Operations Department, to team with various colleges, beginning with the University of Rhode Island, to help students with their résumés.
“They’re teaching résumé-building skills before job fairs. This way we get to know the students, and they get to know NUWC,” Camara said. “It benefits them, and it benefits NUWC.”
The FWP was established in response to EEO Commission and Navy guidance. The committee provides recommendations on matters concerning women in the organization, coordinates and provides ideas for FWP activities, and is committed to the promotion of equal employment opportunity for all persons at Division Newport.
NUWC Division Newport, part of the Naval Sea System Command, is one of two divisions of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center. NUWC Division Newport’s mission is to provide research, development, test and evaluation, engineering and fleet support for submarines, autonomous underwater systems, undersea offensive and defensive weapons systems, and countermeasures. NUWC’s other division is located in Keyport, Washington.
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