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A roundtable discussion of women in government
Janet Foutty, chairman and chief executive officer of Deloitte Consulting LLP, shares a conversation with three women leaders who were trailblazers in their government careers. They not only served with great distinction but also moved up the ranks to positions that few–if any women–had ever previously held in government. Their words of wisdom for career development resonate across industries and generations.
By Janet Foutty, chairman and chief executive officer of Deloitte Consulting LLP
I recently had the privilege of gathering around a table with three incredible women who I greatly admire. Each of whom is a true trailblazer in their career–during their time in Federal government and now at Deloitte. They served the federal government with great distinction and moved up the ranks to positions that few–if any women–had ever held in government. Most importantly, they pushed for new ways of doing things such as initiating a more flexible work schedules, developing a formalized support network, and helped other women rise through the ranks.
I would like to share my favorite parts of my conversation with:
- Mary Corrado, former Chief Financial Officer of the Central Intelligence Agency and now a director within Deloitte’s national security sector
- Janet Hale, former Under Secretary for Management for the Department of Homeland Security and former Assistant Secretary for Budget, Technology, and Finance for the Department of Health & Human Services and now a director with Deloitte’s national security sector
- Beth McGrath, former Department of Defense Deputy Chief Management Officer, and now director within Deloitte’s federal practice’s Strategy & Operations service line
Janet Foutty: So each of you served the federal government in very male dominated fields of defense, national intelligence, and homeland security. Tell us about your greatest career challenge and how you turned that challenge into success for yourself.
Mary: I began my career with the CIA back in the early ‘70s at a time when women served in support-type roles rather than in operations or leadership positions. In order to develop my career, I relied on a lot of mentors and sponsors to support my move up to other positions. And I did participate in a women’s group that helped break the glass ceiling and bring issues along with solutions to the forefront of the leadership.
Beth: When I was looking to take some time off at the birth of my son, Congress had recently passed the Family and Medical Leave Act, which sought to better balance workplace demands with family needs. I was one of the first people in the Naval Sea Systems Command to ask to work at home. While my working from home was a new experience for everyone, it was a great benefit to my family and the torpedo defense program I was working on at the time. It also paved the way for other new parents who later followed suit.
Janet Hale: As a political appointee in the federal government, I realized that I had to develop a strong expertise, and so took on budget, and then management issues. And how I was successful was building strong relationships with my civil service colleagues. What has helped me throughout my career is finding the best and brightest, which there are thousands in the federal government, and listening to all the different ideas and perspectives. If you understand the process, you understand the stakeholders, and you have facts and figures at your fingertips, it makes it a little easier to break through that glass ceiling.
Janet Foutty: In two sentences or less, what was the most valued advice you received from one of your favorite mentors or sponsors.
Janet Hale: Know the facts, know the process, be able to bring the analysis, and be able to articulate it in sound bites.
Mary: Don’t be afraid to take risks.
Beth: Focus on the work and the outcomes, make decisions, and stay true to you.
Janet Foutty: And if I could add my great advice, which is to not try to over manage how all the twists and turns of life will intersect with your career and to take it one day and one chapter at a time. Now, we will go to something a little bit more forward looking, what can be done by us collectively to help encourage women to start a career in government or public service.
Mary: I would say that working in national security and in particular in CIA, it is really about the mission, doing something that is greater than yourself, contributing to the security of our nation. I know that sounds like motherhood and apple pie, but there is an enormous amount of satisfaction in being part of something that really is making a difference. I find working in the public sector to be enormously rewarding.
Beth: Frankly, I would echo a lot of what Mary outlined because the two of us have similar backgrounds in terms of careers as a civil servants. We both joined and stayed because of our call to public service and our alignment to the mission, and we really found something that spoke to us, respectively. Focusing on mission will not only to bring capable women into government but also good people–people who find a mission that speaks to them, find a cause they believe in, and a way to contribute.
Janet Hale: You do government service for the passion about the mission, and it could be whatever your passion is: Is it housing? Is it transportation? Is it homeland security or defense? It is also about the breadth of experience you can have, which not a lot of people fully understand. In addition to mission, there is also the opportunity to learn a discipline-do you like finance, human capital, or technology? Combining mission with a field of work is a very powerful combination.
Janet Foutty: So let’s keep on this theme of the next generation. I know you are all avid mentors and are engaged with young people. What are the mechanisms for getting the message that you all have so nicely articulated in terms of the mission, passion, value to this younger generation?
Beth: The younger generation wants to find ways to serve, be it with nonprofits focused on improving the environment or helping homeless people; however, those opportunities to help and make an impact on important issues also exist in government. There are so many opportunities to help and to give, which are really appealing to the younger generation. That said, we need to find a way that is fun and directly engages them–think mobile!
Janet Hale: It is also our responsibility to be sure the women entering the workforce understand the opportunities in government service. It’s a rewarding career, with both terrific challenges but even greater rewards.
Janet Foutty: That was the perfect comment to close our conversation. A heartfelt thank you both for this conversation and much more importantly for the service you provide to our country and the amazing paths you have trail blazed for women both in public service. Thank you so much.