Speakers at a women's leadership symposium held in San Diego on Tuesday said women in the military are making progress but there are still challenges ahead.
Nearly 1,300 women from all branches of the military and from all over the country came to Harbor Island as part of the Women's Leadership Symposium, which is organized by the Sea Service Leadership Association.
Attendees heard speakers such as Assistant Secretary of the Department of Veterans' Affairs L. Tammy Duckworth. She was a helicopter pilot in Iraq and lost both legs after her Blackhawk helicopter was shot down.
"One of the questions I get asked in Washington is, 'Do women belong in combat?'" said Duckworth. "I look back and them and say, 'Did you think I got this in a bar fight?'"
Navy Vice Adm. Carol Pottenger, one of the first Navy women to serve at sea, told 10News she initially had to deal with harassment and inappropriate conduct. Pottenger said in the last five to ten years, things have gotten much better.
"There's been remarkable momentum
an enormous shift in not just policy and practices but culture," said Pottenger.
Currently, there are about 350,000 women in the U.S. military with more of them taking leadership roles.
"I think the women can do anything that the men can do," said Air Force Lt. General Janet Wolfenbarger, who is the highest-ranking woman in the Air Force. "I think we'll never be done with fully embracing diversity but [there has been] significant progress."
In addition to high-ranking officers, attendees heard from a high-profile performer. Oscar-winning actress Geena Davis also spoke at the symposium on Tuesday.
"I suppose it's not often you're addressed by a former pretend commander in chief," said Davis, who starred in the TV series, "Commander in Chief."
After receiving a few laughs, Davis addressed a topic she has researched extensively: women in the media. Davis, who founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, said women in TV and movies that are made for children are underused and stereotyped.
"What message is our culture sending to boys and girls at a very vulnerable age if the female characters are one-dimensional, sidelined, stereotyped or simply not there at all?" she asked.
Davis summed up her suggestion for change in four words: "adding women
The Symposium will continue on Wednesday on Harbor Island.
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