The U.S. Coast Guard hosted its first “Affinity Fair” Thursday to help USCG personnel “find their community” and promote a more inclusive Coast Guard. The effort is part of the Mentor Project spearheaded by Chief Brynn Simonetti.
The Mentoring Project is an annual, all-inclusive, voluntary program that creates opportunities for all past and present Coast Guard members (active, reserve, enlisted, officers, civilians, Auxiliarists, and retirees) to connect with one another in the form of a structured mentoring relationship. It is a two-way relationship that helps participants establish long- and short-term goals.
“The first CGHQ Affinity Fair was very successful. It provided an opportunity for our DHS and CG workforce to learn new ways to network and add to their career tool belt,” Simonetti told HSToday after the event. “Based on the feedback received, our attendees opened a lot of new possibilities for their personal and professional growth. I look forward to continuing this effort annually and helping people find their community.”
Vice Commandant Adm. Charles W. Ray welcomed guests and stressed the importance of affinity groups and their ability to foster feelings of inclusion and community. “You know, let’s not kid ourselves, the USCG is not a democracy,” he said. “I think all of us have been on the ‘outside’ at some point and I believe that these groups allow Coast Guard personnel to connect and thrive in such a large organization.”
“Affinity groups have the power to foster a more inclusive and collaborative Coast Guard,” said Michelle Godfrey, director of Civilian Human Resources, Diversity and Leadership for the U.S. Coast Guard, in opening remarks.
The Coast Guard is committed to improving gender and cultural diversity, and fostering an inclusive work environment that allows members to remain Ready, Relevant, and Responsive. Recently the RAND Corporation released the results of a study on why women leave the Coast Guard. The report identified the root causes for attrition and developed recommendations that would mitigate the identified barriers. The Coast Guard has significant challenges retaining women over men in the service, and is taking action to address these challenges that are affecting the mission-ready total workforce.
In addition to the Affinity Fair, Vice Commandant Ray also posted on Facebook Thursday about the Surge Staffing for Parental Leave Pilot Program: “Family readiness is vital to U.S. Coast Guard readiness. ‘The Surge Staffing for Parental Leave Pilot Program’ supports our servicemembers and their families. This program leverages Reserve members to assist units with temporary personnel gaps due to parental, maternity convalescent, and primary caregiver leave for birth or adoption of a child. Senior Chief Laurie Kennedy and more than 20 other servicemembers have already used this program to unplug from their jobs and bond with their new children. Parental Surge Staffing was developed in support of the Coast Guard Strategic Plan, which directs investments in our people and improvement to mission support programs.”
The daylong Affinity Fair event featured an expo of nonprofits focused on communities based on gender, race, and sexual orientation, including Coast Guard-affiliated groups as well. Breakout sessions included topics such as how affinity groups can propel your career forward, mentoring, financial resiliency, inclusive leadership, and conflict management, among others.
Some of the participating organizations included the Family Sea Service Foundation, the Coast Guard Enlisted Association, Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association, Coast Guard Foundation, USCG Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI), Women in Homeland Security, National Naval Officers Association, Blacks in Government and others. The fair was sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (CG-127).