Each year, the President designates March as National Women’s History Month as one way that Americans in schools, workplaces and local communities can take the time to reflect on the accomplishments and legacies of women who have shaped our great country’s history.
This year’s theme is “Celebrating Women of Character, Courage and Commitment.”
Like many of you, when I see those words, I think of my mother, I think of my sister, and I think of my daughter, all strong and courageous women in my life.
The theme of character, courage and commitment honors the extraordinary and often unrecognized determination of the tenacity of women. For generations, often facing social convention and legal constraints, women have persevered in their efforts to achieve their full potential.
This month, the National Women’s History Project has named 12 honorees whose lives and achievements span centuries and cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Among the honorees are three women who are – or were – Federal employees. They are examples of the legions of women who go to work for the American people each and every day.
Frances Oldham Kelsey was the Food and Drug Administration Pharmacologist who refused to approve thalidomide, a drug that was later proved to cause severe birth defects. Dr. Kelsey continued her work at the FDA until her retirement in 2005 at age 91.
Ann Lewis has been a lifelong women’s rights organizer and women’s history advocate. She served as White House Communications Director under President Clinton.
Lisa Taylor is a civil rights attorney for the Department of Justice where she has enforced the rights of HIV victims, autistic children, and educational opportunities for minority students. As an officer aboard the USS Tarawa, she developed the ship’s first program to address sexual harassment.
I salute all of these women.
Every day, women bring their talents, their insights, their experiences and their wisdom to every department and agency in the Federal government. We at OPM are working hard to make sure they have the tools and the training they need to develop to their full potential.
All of us need to mentor and sponsor women, in order to ensure that they see a clear career path to leadership. We especially must prepare more women for the Senior Executive Service (SES).
Currently, 34 percent of our executives are women. This is progress, but we must do better. Last summer, the Equal Pay Task Force held the Federal Women’s Leadership Summit. We had a tremendous response. Twelve hundred women signed up for the leadership webcast. This month, I had a successful roundtable in Atlanta with some incredible women leaders. This was a prelude to the regional Working Families summits, including one in Denver, where I will be participating in April. All of this will culminate in the White House Summit on Working Families on June 23.
I am also meeting with our Federal Executive Boards where women from every level of government can learn more about other women’s experiences on their paths to the SES and how they too can succeed. Through these initial meetings, we will help create mentorships for Federal women at all stages of their careers.
I hope we all take time out of our busy lives this month to remember the women who have been important in our lives. And still are.
Katherine Archuleta is the Director for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.