DHS women convene inaugural diversity forum

Friday - 6/18/2010, 6:22am EDT

WFED's Max Cacas

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By Rachel Stevens, Intern
and
Max Cacas, Reporter
Federal News Radio

One of the challenges of managing effective and productive federal workers today is maintaining a diverse workforce.

Yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security convened its first-ever "Diversity Forum" for women who work in the agencies that make up DHS. The forum was held at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

DHS Deputy Chief Human Capital Officer Vicki Brooks said the event was intended both to celebrate the role of women in government and to help them address challenges facing them in their careers.

With all the progress made by women in the workforce in the last several decades, females in both the public and private sector still have to battle numerous workplace stereotypes about how they balance worklife issues.

"Eight out of every ten women are the ones making those decisions around daycare, around finances, around health care, around all of the family situations… and when they are trying to handle those issues along with being a productive member of the federal government, it can be a real struggle," said Brooks.

Brooks told Federal News Radio the forum was the result, in part, of the Obama administration's creation of the White House Council on Women and Girls, which, in turn, was created to examine the impact of federal policies on women.

In addition, an important part of the diversity forum focused on agency policies that affect women. Both current policies "that may be compromising what we want to do good", along with "policies that we currently don't have that we need to put in place that will support women in the work place" were discussed by forum attendees.

Brooks identified telework and mentoring as the most significant objectives that could improve the lives of female feds.

"We have to provide a forum for women that allows them flexibilities," Brooks said.

She also believes increased educational and skill-building opportunities would benefit many women's careers. This would help them become more prepared for the numerous on the job challenges they face.

Brooks says she is hopeful that Thursday's forum will be the first of many such gatherings designed to give women working at her agency opportunitities to network, and exchange best practices on striking the correct balance between personal life and their careers.

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