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Speeches & Remarks Federally Employed Women Leadership Summit

Remarks of OPM Director Katherine Archuleta

Federally Employed Women Leadership Summit

Washington, DC

July 11, 2014

As prepared for delivery

Hello women in Federal Government! What a great event. Congratulations Federally Employed Women on 45 years of providing excellent leadership training for women. I am so happy to be here to help you celebrate.

Thank you, Michelle, for your introduction, for your stewardship of FEW and for 25 years of Federal service. And thank you for your dedication to Equal Opportunity and diversity. I'm looking forward to continuing to work with you and FEW on these issues. I know how much effort it takes to put a conference like this together. Thank you Sue (Webster) and Marion (Stevens) for all your hard work.

Programs like this training summit and the regional programs FEW sponsors across the country are so important when it comes to supporting, advocating for and mentoring women – especially those aspiring to leadership roles. I applaud you for your continuing efforts to help lift women up and advance in their careers.

The first thing I want to do today is thank all of you. Thank you for the hard work you do each and every day. Because of your talent, your commitment, your leadership, we provide excellent service to the American people all across this great country.

Today I want to share with you some of my thoughts about what we are doing at OPM as part of the President's Second Term Management Agenda to help bring more women into the executive ranks of Federal service. I also want to talk to you about how important a role mentoring and balancing work and family issues play in that effort.

Let me start by saying that women in the Federal workplace are doing better. The pay equality report that OPM released in April showed that women have made significant gains in closing the gender pay gap over the past 20 years. That is especially true when it comes to Federal supervisors and managers. Women make 95 cents on the dollar compared to men. And for women in the SES, the gap is less than a penny. Having said that, it is also true that women make up only 33.7 percent of Federal senior executives. Three in 10. We need to do better.

For me, this conversation is not about numbers. I say that all the time when I'm talking about the need for diversity in the Federal workforce. This conversation is about having the talent, the experience, the wisdom and the perspective that women bring to every facet of the workplace. And we especially need women at every decision-making table.

So what am I doing about this at OPM?

As part of the People and Culture Plank of the President's Second Term Management Agenda, we are streamlining and enhancing the processes we use to hire and recruit for the SES. We are creating a special interagency working group to look at everything from how to reduce the administrative burden for applicants to how we can best attract talent from all segments of society. We will identify any barriers that exist for women entering the SES. And we will work to remove them. We are developing an improved onboarding model for agencies so that new SES members have the support they need to hit the ground running.The onboarding program will include continued support as these new executives tackle the challenges of leadership.

We also are making it a priority to create new development programs for aspiring and current SES members. They include a Situational Mentoring Program that will allow leaders to reach out for help with a particular problem or project. We're also establishing a coaching network. We plan to roll out both of these initiatives this fall.

We at OPM have also been working with the Federal Executive Boards to provide leadership development in field offices throughout the United States. We had a very successful "speed mentoring" program in Baltimore this spring. We brought together GS 11's through 15's. SES members gave them practical advice and shared their experiences. Sessions like these assist women with everything from strengthening their resumes to developing their executive core qualifications. And they help women develop the kind of lasting relationships that can help them advance in their careers.We're planning similar events in Atlanta, San Francisco and my home town of Denver, all cities with large concentrations of Federal workers.

I've been talking a lot about mentoring lately.

Last month I spoke to a group of senior executives and young government leaders about how important it is for everyone to have a support network.I do not view mentoring as a feel-good act of kindness. I see it as a responsibility each one of us has. I also don't look at mentoring as a top down exercise. At each stop along the way in our careers, we all need someone to lend a helping hand. And guess what, we never stop needing mentors.

I have been fortunate to have amazing mentors throughout my life.They have helped guide me, they have propped me up when the stress got to me and frankly, they have been there to tell me to get a grip when I began to feel sorry for myself. I like to think that I am paying that forward by being a mentor and a sounding board for my staff at OPM.

You don't need a structured program to be a mentor or to benefit from mentoring. It can be something as simple as sharing a cup of coffee, giving someone a pat on the back, or taking the time to say thank you for a job well done.

All of these efforts become even more important as we work to build a strong bench of leadership to take our places when we retire – some of us sooner than others. And we need more women on that bench.

As I said, we are redoubling our efforts to help women in the Federal workforce get the mentoring, the coaching, the training and the support they need to move into leadership positions.

As women, we know that we cannot meet the challenges of moving into leadership without addressing the pressures of balancing a career and family needs. At last month's White House Summit on Work and Families, the President issued a memorandum aimed at enhancing workplace flexibilities and work life programs. These programs are important to professional women. We know that if we are stressed out about how we are going to handle a family crisis or everyday needs, it will affect our ability to do our jobs.

We also know that if our managers and supervisors support the kind of flexibilities women – and men - need to help deal with family issues, that employees will be more willing to go the extra mile when a critical situation arises at work.

We have the tools to help - whether it is encouraging the use of telework, allowing employees to use Alternative Work Schedules or offering a variety of leave programs. The President's memorandum directs OPM to make sure that not only are employees being told about such flexibilities, but that managers are promoting a culture that makes it normal and acceptable to telework, or, to take leave to care for an ailing parent.

As I have traveled around the country during the eight months I have been Director of OPM, I've heard from Federal workers that they want better training, more development opportunities and a greater feeling of being included in workplace decisions.

As we roll out these new initiatives I want to hear from you. I want to know if they are working, what we can do better, what ideas you have. We are in this together. I look out at this room today and see the present and future leaders of our 21st Century workforce. I am determined to help you to succeed.

Again, thank you FEW for your efforts to insist women's voices, skills and expertise are part of the leadership decisions we make every day. I look forward to continuing to work with you on bringing more women into leadership roles in the Federal service and on how best to include the Federal Women's Program in that effort.

I will do all I can to support you, to help you, to champion you, to make sure you have what you need to succeed. I will be singing your praises everywhere I go. I will tweet about you, Instagram your photos, link you in and fill Facebook with images of government employees.

I do this because I know that together you and I will continue to make sure that the Federal service is THE model workforce for the 21st Century.

Thank you!

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