Annual Program Highlights Women’s Contribution to Federal Service
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 17, 2007 Over the years, women equipped with industry acumen and armed with advanced degrees have climbed ladders and shattered the glass ceiling that had once stunted their career growth. To train and mentor aspiring female professionals in the federal sector, a group known as Federally Employed Women, or FEW, began a training program in 1970.
About 50 participants gathered yesterday for the Defense Department’s forum on women affairs, one installment in a series of courses and lectures at the 38th annual FEW seminar, which runs through July 20 at the Hilton Washington Hotel here.
“Up until the 1940s, only a handful of agencies hired women,” said keynote speaker Tina Jonas, the Defense Department’s comptroller and chief financial officer. “Some of the offices, including the U.S. Patent Office, provided billets for women, but the women had to work at home, and their paychecks were made out in the name of their male relatives.”
Jonas, the first woman to serve as the Defense Department’s comptroller, said women’s contribution to the work force today is invaluable.
“We simply would not be able to manage without women,” she said. “At the Pentagon, women fill every role in the civil service, and throughout the armed services, including admiral and general.”
As comptroller, Jonas manages an office that comprises about 60 budget analysts and other accountants, who she said put together roughly $750 billion worth of budgetary requests in “record time.” Last year, the staff earned the Presidential Rank Award, which recognizes and celebrates a small group of career senior executives for exceptional long-term accomplishments.
Forty-nine percent of those workers are women who fulfill leading roles, Jonas said. For example, the assistant deputy chief financial officer, director for military personnel and construction, and director of operations are women, she noted.
“I would say that their leadership is absolutely key to the defense of the nation and to the efficient and effective management of the nation’s dollars,” she said. “It’s not an easy job.”
The team, which has near-equal gender representation, managed a $481 billion 2008 base budget, a $142 billion global war on terror budget, and $100 billion of emergency supplement funding from Congress.
“We are a complex organization,” she said. “We’re bigger than Ford, General Motors, Exxon or even Wal-Mart.”
Jonas addressed the contributions of women in uniform, including Air Force Master Sgt. Artri Spratling, who opened the forum by singing the national anthem.
“I always get a little chill up my spine when I hear the anthem, and the master sergeant who sang today was really good at her job,” Jonas said. “There are women across the military, from her job all the way across the department, working in theater, flying airplanes; this is a wonderful department.
“It’s a great place for women,” she noted.