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Womens History Month

Image of people and buildings representing worklife balance

Since the beginning of his Administration, President Obama has been committed to promoting a workplace culture for the 21st century that will support the Federal Government’s ability to attract, empower, and retain a talented and productive workforce by expanding the use of workplace flexibilities and work-life programs. Among several requirements, the President directed OPM to educate agencies on the various workplace flexibilities and work-life resources available.

To support the President’s initiative, we are pleased to announce a new 90-minute online course called “Introduction to Leave, Work-Life, and Workplace Flexibilities” that is available at no cost through OPM’s HR University. Its goal is to provide Federal employees and managers with a comprehensive overview of flexible workplace benefits and how to access them. This new course is being introduced during National Women’s History Month (WHM). The theme of this year’s WHM is honoring women in public service and government. OPM works with agencies across government to help recruit, develop, and retain the talent they need - including women - to deliver on our missions for the American people.

Today, OPM and IMPACT, the agency’s women’s employee resource group, sponsored a program entitled “Federal Women Lead.” During this panel discussion, senior Federal women leaders shared their career journeys and talked about the importance work-life flexibilities have played in their success.

OPM Acting Director Beth Cobert, who spent 29 years as a consultant and partner in the private sector before joining Federal service, recalled how she was one of the first consultants at that firm to work part time.

“Workplace flexibilities have been important to me in my career. My husband and I had demanding jobs when our children were born. I was a consultant at a private global management company, a job which involved long hours and considerable travel. Back then, working part time and other flexibilities to help balance work and family life were not in place in many workplaces, including mine. But I asked to shift to a part-time schedule, and the leadership in my office was willing to give it a try. It turned out to be good for me, for my firm, and our clients – and working part-time is now an option for others,” Cobert said.

Workplace flexibilities provide a benefit to both Federal employees and our customers – the American people. OPM’s course helps to promote a culture in which employees and managers are able to more effectively use the various workplace flexibilities and work-life programs available. Allowing employees to use these flexibilities improve agency productivity, employee engagement and provides better service for our customers.


Women's History Month graphic with photos of past and present women who've served in government which reads: Women's History Month 2016, Honoring Women in Public Service and Government.

As we begin a month-long commemoration of National Women’s History Month, I’m glad that this year’s theme honors women in public service. It’s a perfect time for us to reflect on the accomplishments of women in government who succeeded, often against great odds. It’s also the right time to recommit ourselves to encouraging the next generation of women leaders

The National Women’s History Project has named 15 women who it says “have shaped America’s history and its future through their public service and government leadership.” Included in this accomplished group are four women who dedicated their lives to Federal service:

  • Sonia Pressman Fuentes, co-founder of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the first woman attorney at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). 
  • Judy Hart, who in her 27-year career with the National Parks Service became the founding superintendent of the Women’s Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls, N.Y. and of the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Park in Richmond, Calif., 
  • Oveta Culp Hobby, the first commanding officer of Women’s Army Corps (WAC) during World War II and the first Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, now the Department of Health and Human Services. 
  • Nancy Grace Roman, an astronomer, was the first woman executive at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). She was known as the “Mother of Hubble” for her contributions to the establishment of the Hubble Space Telescope.

From young women in high school and college studying such critical skills as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) to women in mid-career, it’s important that government reach out, as part of its overall recruitment efforts, and encourage them to join in serving the American people. OPM is committed to helping agencies find and develop the talent to follow in the footsteps of the distinguished leaders we honor this month.

We are working with agencies to identify and remove any barriers that managers may face in recruiting the diverse talent they need, including women. Through OPM initiatives like Executive Women in Motion, we are bringing aspiring women leaders together with mentors who can help them and encourage them to become members of the Senior Executive Service.

OPM issues guidance to agencies to help promote the policies that help women – and men – balance the needs of their families and the responsibilities of their jobs. This includes such workplace flexibilities as telework and alternative work schedules.

OPM also provides data on the continued narrowing of the pay gap in the Federal workforce. In 1992, Federal women in white-collar jobs made 70-cents on the dollar compared to men. The most recent data we have show that by 2012 that number was 87 cents. Women in Federal leadership positions are doing even better. In 2012, these women were paid 99.2 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts.

Working with the Department of Justice, OPM is also helping agencies develop strategies and training to increase awareness of and help colleagues support victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Abuse, and Stalking.

As the President said in his proclamation recognizing March as Women’s History Month, “We have come far, but there is still far to go in shattering the glass ceiling that holds women back. This month, as we reflect on the marks made by women throughout history, let us uphold the responsibility that falls on all of us -- regardless of gender -- and fight for equal opportunity for our daughters as well as our sons.”

OPM, like other agencies across government, will set aside time this month to celebrate the achievements of women in Federal service. I want to thank all Federal employees for the work they do every day to fulfill their missions to serve the American people.


As we celebrate Women’s History Month, I want to highlight OPM’s commitment to ensuring that all women -- and men -- are offered the flexibilities they need to be productive, satisfied members of the Federal workforce. OPM encourages agencies to help their employees balance the needs of their lives inside and outside of work.

In January, the President signed a memorandum titled, Modernizing Federal Leave Policies for Childbirth, Adoption, and Foster Care to Recruit and Retain Talent and Improve Productivity.  It directs agencies to advance Federal workers up to six weeks paid sick leave to care for a new child or ill family member. In his State of the Union address, the President also called on Congress to enact legislation to provide Federal workers with up to six weeks of paid parental leave.

The President’s memorandum builds on this past June’s White House Summit on Working Families, an event that explored a variety of issues important to working families, including workplace flexibility. OPM is contributing to these efforts by developing a handbook on Leave for Pregnancy, Childbirth, Adoption, and Foster Care. I believe it is important for Federal employees and their managers to fully understand our policies related to family life events. We do not want women to feel that they must choose between their responsibilities to their family and their obligations to their careers.

To develop the handbook, we are partnering with Federal agencies to gather information on existing workplace flexibilities and work-life programs. OPM is asking agency leave experts to identify common questions and misconceptions. This summer, we will analyze the data we receive and send a report to the President. This document will describe best practices, barriers, and limitations in achieving work-life balance. It also will suggest possible solutions to roadblocks that working families encounter.

OPM has long had in place policies that make it easier for women to meet their full career potential. We’ve created flexible work schedules, expanded sick leave to include caring for family members who are ill, developed telework policies, and come closer to eliminating the gender pay gap.

Sensible workplace polices like these are an integral part of OPM’s Recruitment, Engagement, Diversity, and Inclusion – or REDI – roadmap. REDI provides agencies with the tools to attract, hire, promote, and retain top talent for the Federal government and build a model workforce now, and the future.

Our work-life policies are continually evolving to make the balance of caring for families and pursuing a career complementary, rather than contradictory. The women who have come before us have set an incredible example of dedicated Federal service. We hope to honor their contributions by doing all that we can to meet the needs of women today.

Director Archuleta meets with women in Tampa, Florida.


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