5 Takeaways from Women Leaders in Federal Tech
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5 Takeaways from Women Leaders in Federal Tech

 

Women across federal IT agencies gathered July 14, 2022, at GovCIO Media & Research's Women Tech Leaders event in Washington, DC, to discuss various initiatives in cybersecurity, data governance, equity, workforce issues and more.

 

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01
Women in government are using their leadership positions to address tech and cyber challenges across government.
01
Women in government are using their leadership positions to address tech and cyber challenges across government.
 
  • During a fireside chat, CISA Chief of Strategy Valerie Cofield highlighted ways CISA is helping federal agencies meet the zero trust mandate laid out in Executive Order 14028 by communicating regularly and using the Technology Modernization Fund to help federal agencies modernize securely. Cybersecurity depends on communication and partnership, she said.

  • CMS Director of Digital Service Andrea Fletcher discussed the modernization challenges associated with legacy IT infrastructure and the challenges associated with secure modernization when handling millions of Americans’ personal health data. She compared it to renovating an old Victorian house: you can’t knock it down and you have to spend significant time and effort understanding the infrastructure in order to modernize efficiently and securely.

 
02
Leaders encourage others to advocate for themselves and encourage agencies to uplift them.
Panel: Human Capital Management and A Diverse, Equitable, Inclusive Future
02
Leaders encourage others to advocate for themselves and encourage agencies to uplift them.
 
  • Department of Veterans Affairs Electronic Health Record Modernization Integration Office Acting Deputy CIO Laura Prietula argued that women looking to pursue positions in IT should request salaries and compensation based on what they believe they’re worth — not based on previous salaries. Between the gender pay gap and motherhood penalty, women need to advocate for the value they bring and get compensated accordingly, Prietula said.

  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Attorney Advisor Liza Zamd expanded on a new agency study the revealed 29% of federal employees in STEM are women. Amid the findings, she said it’s critical for agencies to have a good recruitment pipeline, commitment to diversity and effective exit interviews to support women in their STEM positions.

 
03
Intellectually curious leaders stay relevant.
Quote from Lt. Gen Mary O'Brien
03
Intellectually curious leaders stay relevant.
Lt. Gen Mary O'Brien
 
  • Lt. Gen. Mary O’Brien, recently confirmed to be the new CIO for the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon, encouraged women to adopt a problem-solving approach and not limit themselves if they want to pursue motherhood and national security careers. She told the story of how she learned to manipulate older technologies such as floppy disks and worked with limited bandwidth and data storage so she and her children could stay in touch with her deployed husband, which became a theme in how she approached her work as well.

  • Cynthia Kaiser, Cyber Division Section Chief at the FBI, encouraged women with diverse experiences and ways of thinking to pursue cyber and national security careers. As a cyber leader with ADHD, Kaiser believes different perspectives benefit organizations and she aims to uplift women from all backgrounds at the FBI.

 
04
Inspiring women to pursue tech and cyber careers is key.
04
Inspiring women to pursue tech and cyber careers is key.
 
  • O’Brien called on women leaders in government to speak up and make themselves available to inspire and mentor younger women and show them different ways to serve in government, even if they don't meet all the qualifications for certain positions. For example, women with liberal arts degrees or with ADHD can still serve in DOD, she said.

  • As her daughter’s Girl Scout Troop leader, Kaiser is encouraging girls from a young age to pursue their dreams and take critical early steps to building successful careers.

  • Denise Sisson, VP of Archon Sales at ID Technologies, told the story of how she grew up in Ohio inspired by the state’s rich aviation heritage and how that prompted her to pursue a cyber and tech career. She wants to encourage other women to dig deeply into what inspires them and what they love and help them realize those dreams.

 
05
Diverse teams develop sharper solutions.
Panel: Leveraging Data to Promote Equity
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Diverse teams develop sharper solutions.
 
  • Army DEVCOM is working toward making work more accessible with its future of work initiative, the agency’s CTO Charneta Samms added. DEVCOM is looking to hire across the country and collaborating with historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and minority-serving institutions (MSIs) to tap hubs of innovation.

  • DOD Deputy Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Officer Katie Savage highlighted the importance of different backgrounds and professional expertise on her team’s projects, such as the processing of Afghan special immigrant visas upon the withdraw from Afghanistan.