Women of the Workforce Team Leads Collaboration, Community Outreach at NIWC Pacific

US Navy | Sep. 8, 2023

By Maison Piedfort

Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Pacific teammates share their personal backgrounds and experiences in the workplace during a Women’s Equality Day Panel and Potluck event hosted by the Center’s Women of the Workforce (WoW), Equal Employment Opportunity office, and its Culture Team. Many NIWC Pacific employees contribute their time on a regular basis to WoW, a special interest group built on a grassroots ambition of the workforce to organize around a sense of social responsibility. (This photo has been altered for security purposes by blurring the screen.) (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Bobby Siens)

SAN DIEGO, CA.: What compels busy people to take on more work than is asked of them? Who would log off from work at 4 p.m., grab a trash bag, and pick up litter from a two-mile stretch of the beach?

Many people at Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Pacific, it turns out, earlier this summer. Before that, many attended a Walk/Run/Jog Event in May to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month. And before that, in March, some of those volunteers collected contributions to a donation drive for local community service organizations in honor of Women’s History Month.

At least 20 people, including a steering committee and department representatives, regularly contribute their time to leading NIWC Pacific’s Women of the Workforce (WoW), a special interest group built on a grassroots ambition of the workforce to organize around a sense of social responsibility.

“Balancing my daily job responsibilities and contributing to WoW while maintaining a high level of performance in both areas can be challenging,” said Fan Champagne, a NIWC Pacific engineer in the Fleet Installation, Engineering, and Logistics Department. Champagne co-chairs WoW with Bethany Taylor, a scientist in the Finance Department.

“But promoting the visibility and representation of women in the workforce and encouraging women to take on leadership positions are important to me,” Champagne said. “When women hold influential roles, it sends a powerful message about the importance of gender diversity and inspires others to pursue leadership positions.”

Both NIWC Atlantic and NIWC Pacific chartered women’s advisory groups, open to all civilian and military personnel, in 2012 for development of a culture in which women and men work together toward satisfying and rewarding careers.

Carmela Keeney, NIWC Pacific executive director at the time, and Fleet Installation, Engineering, and Logistics Department Head Mavis Machniak, who is also WoW executive champion, led an inaugural WoW presentation in January 2013. The event included a Grace Hopper Brown Bag Women Luncheon. Rear Adm. Grace Hopper was a computer scientist and one of the Navy’s first female admirals.

Since then, volunteers — committee members, department representatives, and other helping hands — have organized monthly events, most recent of which was a Women’s Equality Day Panel and Potluck held August 23. The Center’s WoW, Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) office, and its Culture Team hosted the hybrid in-person and virtual event, where workforce members shared their personal and professional backgrounds and experiences in the workplace.

After talking mental health over appetizers at Liberty Station, clearing 25 13-gallon bags of trash from the community, and sharing potluck dishes over a panel, WoW’s in-person events are back in full swing, many accommodating virtual access for colleagues at the Center’s other sites. From those in San Diego, WoW committee members started getting the feedback a year or so ago: We’re ready for more in-person events.

“I became more involved with WoW in 2020 and I really appreciated that I was a part of this amazing special interest group,” Champagne said. “I was able to maintain my mental health during the pandemic because of WoW. I was able to collaborate with different groups at the Center like EEO, and coordinate events, and also do some outdoor community outreach events last year.”

Up next for WoW is a speed networking event in October, where registrants will meet NIWC Pacific leaders, mentors, and colleagues in a speed dating-style forum. “The networking opportunities are for everyone in the workforce, and they’re really impactful,” Champagne said. “These events enable men and women to connect, learn from each other, and develop professionally.”

What is it, then, that compels busy people to take on more than is asked of them? What does it say about the workforce that so many are willing to go above and beyond their regular roles to contribute to a sense of community?

“Increased awareness, knowledge sharing, professional development, networking, and team building throughout our workforce are all important factors for a healthy culture at NIWC Pacific,” Executive Champion Machniak said.

“The success of the WoW lies in the passion and motivation of its members, from both the steering committee and department representatives. Their enthusiasm in planning and executing Center-wide events throughout each calendar year is simply amazing.”

NIWC Pacific’s mission is to conduct research, development, prototyping, engineering, test and evaluation, installation and sustainment of integrated information warfare capabilities and services across all warfighting domains with an emphasis on basic and applied research and tactical systems afloat and ashore in order to drive innovation and warfighter information advantage.