Women’s equal participation and leadership in government are essential to achieving diversity inclusion in the public sphere, but women remain underrepresented at various levels of government worldwide. Female leaders in government discussed the best practices for women to navigate the career ladder in government, and overcome the barriers placed in their way during a GovLoop webinar on July 13.
Diversity inclusion is often perceived to be about perspective, representation, challenging conversation, and supporting inclusion. Therefore, to promote diversity inclusion in the workplace – specifically in government – leaders must move out of their inner circles to provide opportunities to other employees within their agencies.
“This is the time of the woman. Diversity Inclusion and equity are in the forefront of everyone’s mind across the board in the government and the private sector, and there are so many opportunities for women moving forward,” said Caronell LeMalle Diew, program manager at the Federal Aviation Administration.
However, when leaders do not move out of their inner circles, this becomes a barrier for women because the opportunities available to climb the career ladder are limited. “Leaders need to identify their own biases and create opportunities for those outside their inner circle. This has to be a continuous conscious effort on the part of leaders,” said Sandra Auchter, director at the Denver office of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
In addition, panelists agreed that a ubiquitous challenge that women face when entering the workforce is “imposter syndrome,” which is prevalent mainly among high-achieving women and is loosely defined as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud.
“The majority of women in my business that are in leadership positions have had imposter syndrome at some point in their career. I got to remind women to remember that they belong here,” said Auchter.
Imposter syndrome also holds women back from applying to specific government jobs or accepting promotions because they believe they do not meet professional qualifications. And according to Arianne Gallagher, director at the Office of Presidential Fellowships at OPM’s Center for Leadership Development, women need to be vulnerable and let down those barriers in these instances.
“The worst that can happen in these instances is you do not get the job. But you cannot let that fear of failure prevent you from attempting different opportunities,” said Gallagher. “But remember always to emphasize your strengths and show that you are adaptable and can learn new skills.”
Additionally, women early in their career need to take a step back and determine the requirements that need to be filled in an agency and serve them, whether it be anything from asking questions to clarify tasks for the team to understanding software and scheduling meetings.
“This is a transferable trait wherever you go, and it will help build your presence and credibility within your agency, ultimately making you invaluable,” said Gallagher.