HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — The 2023 Space & Missile Defense Symposium kicked off with the third annual Women in Missile Defense luncheon Monday at the Von Braun Center (VBC).

Raytheon’s President of Strategic Missile Defense Jennifer Hubbard started off the event by highlighting a very popular topic in media right now, ‘Barbenheimer.’ She joked about how fitting it was to have something so popular that encapsulates both girl power and military accomplishment.

She closed by saying that the U.S. should embrace that moving forward, then passed the torch to a panel of experts who all discussed the importance of women in missile defense.

Panelist Janice Chen said, “I think diversity needs to be part of that mix in order for us to face the threat that is outpacing us in capacity and capability, and we’re late to the game. So we need to get our best. Doesn’t matter where you’re from, let’s roll!”

Chen, who is Associate Director for U.S. Requirements and Capabilities (Huntsville and Redstone Arsenal) for Land & Air Defense Systems, was joined by Lynn Troy, who is President & CEO of Riverstone Solutions, Angela Rittenbach and President of Troy 7 Inc.

While Chen talked about the importance of increasing diversity for the future of our military, Troy highlighted some of the barriers women face today.

“It feels like it’s a very mysterious and male-dominated field, so it’s intimidating. But I think for women to actually get to things like this, and be at a conference the next couple of days and meet with people and see that we’re just regular people that are doing very important work for national security… It’s very rewarding and fun and a good way to provide for your family,” said Troy.

This panel of women marked the start of the 2023 Space & Missile Defense Symposium, which will continue through the rest of the week. You can view News 19’s coverage of the event here.