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Intelligence Community Summit promotes leadership and diversity of thought

By DIA Public Affairs

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Oct. 28, 2014 — The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) sponsored the annual Intelligence Community Women’s Summit at the Defense Intelligence Agency Headquarters on Oct. 17. The summit brought together women and men from across the intelligence community (IC) to discuss and promote diversity and inclusion. More than 200 IC professionals heard from senior officials and participated in breakout sessions on topics including supervisor and culture perceptions, stretching your career, emotional intelligence, incorporating transparency in career growth, roadmaps to career success, and a final session during which seniors mentored small groups about strategies for career success.

The summit focused on the key themes of leadership, diversity of thought and institutionalized behavior. Focusing on these themes were leaders such as ODNI Chief Human Capital Officer Deborah Kircher, who discussed the growing importance and accessibility of joint duty assignments, and DIA Director of Human Resources Deborah Hartman, who reviewed actions taken in the past year to expand career growth for the entire workforce.

A Call for Change

“Diversity isn’t just about recruiting and retention,” said DIA Deputy Director Doug Wise. “It’s about harnessing those statistics to achieve the complex mission we have.”  He stressed that the intelligence mission needs a variety of perspectives and experiences that it can use to analyze data and provide insight and advice to our nation’s leaders and warfighters.

Wise and Ellen McCarthy, chief operating officer at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), kicked off the program with a frank discussion about the necessity of a diverse workforce when confronting a diverse problem set.

McCarthy highlighted changes NGA has made to increase diversity, including the successful development of integrated work groups.  She stressed that diversity is a necessity in today’s IC workforce.

Gary Dunow, acting director of the analysis directorate at NGA, also addressed the need for a diverse workforce and the need to focus them on IC challenges. “The reason integrated work groups are a success [at NGA] is because we put diverse people together, which reduced the translation time,” said Dunow.

Challenges Faced

Summit participants heard directly from women who were early trailblazers in the IC. Navy Capt. Heidi Berg, chief of intelligence training at DIA’s Academy for Defense Intelligence, shared her experiences being the only female on a carrier in the early 1990s and working with female Afghan troops to build confidence working with men. Citing these experiences, she emphasized the importance of diversity and the power an individual has to induce change.

“When you understand an organization’s culture, then you can act as a catalyst for change,” Berg said. “The only way we’re going to change culture is if people who think differently stick it out.”

Moving Forward

Senior IC leaders highlighted for participants that there is work to be done in this area, and efforts are underway. “[Diversity] is a roll-up your sleeves and do it kind of thing,” said Gary Wang, director of intelligence systems and architecture, Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence.

Senior leaders gave their advice to attendees in both the small group sessions and in the plenary discussions. Kircher encouraged those in attendance to be open to taking risks that aren’t part of a plan. “I’m not saying let go of your passion or interests, but it is good to get out of your comfort zone,” she said.

Hartman reviewed other resources such as the expanded career paths, increasing career-broadening joint duty assignments at DIA to five percent, and mentoring opportunities. She also mentioned a career management assessment tool that will allow employees to track their careers long term.

Overall, the summit brought together current and future leaders to focus on the value of a diverse workforce and the wide breadth of experiences and perspectives it can bring to an organization – and it called upon everyone in the IC to promote diversity. “Leadership must define the role of diversity and its value in what the team does … and must also create an environment where employees feel safe to share their opinions,” Wise said.