• March 2013

Women in Power

“Women have always been the strong ones of the world,” said fashion designer Coco Chanel.

Being that we’re a women-owned business at The Inkandescent Group, who are we to argue?

And, since March is Women’s History Month, we’re dedicating this edition of Be Inkandescent magazine, to Women in Power.

In this issue:

  • Executive Women in Government VP Shoshana Grove is our cover feature this month. What can you do to land a top job in the government? Grove and EWG President Reta Jo Lewis offer tips on that and more in our Tips for Entrepreneurs column.
  • The face of the Newseum, Sonya Gavankar, shares her experience going from Miss DC to successful broadcast reporter in our new column, Journalists.
  • Empowered Women International founder Marga Fripp explains how her organization channels the entrepreneurial spirit and creative talents of immigrant, refugee, and low-income women. Don’t miss insights from this Truly Amazing Woman.
  • And that’s just for starters. Don’t miss our columnists’ insights on what it means to be in your power!

We leave you with this parting thought from comedienne Roseanne Barr: “The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it.”

Here’s to harnessing your power, and your incredible, indelible success. — Hope Katz Gibbs, publisher, Be Inkandescent magazinefounder, The Inkandescent Group, LLC

The Powerhouse Behind Executive Women in Government

COVER STORY MARCH 2013: EXECUTIVE WOMEN IN GOVERNMENT

By Hope Katz Gibbs
Publisher, Be Inkandescent

What does it take to rise to the top ranks in government? That’s the question we asked Executive Women in Government VP Shoshana Grove.

The federal executive began her career as a letter carrier for the US Postal Service in Washington, DC, and worked her way up through the ranks to her current position as head of the Office of Secretary & Administration for the Postal Regulatory Commission.

She is responsible for maintaining the records of the Commission, preserving Commission documents, managing the Commission’s library and docket room, and managing HR, among other responsibilities. She also represents the Commission on the Federal CIO Council and Small Agency Council.

For our Tips column this month, we also looped in the organization’s president, Reta Jo Lewis. Click here for her insights into rising to the top.

But first, we sat down with Grove to discuss her career, her perspective on where women have come from—and where they are going—and what role Executive Women in Government will be playing in the years to come.

Scroll down for our Q&A, below.

Click here to listen to our podcast interview on the Inkandescent Radio Network.


Be Inkandescent: Let’s start by talking about Executive Women in Government. Tell us about the organization, who its members are, and what its mission is.

Shoshana Grove: Executive Women in Government (EWG) was founded in 1974 and is an organization of senior women executives who serve in the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the federal government.

The organization advocates for the advancement of women in senior leadership positions in the federal government and provides members an opportunity to become better acquainted with other senior government and corporate women through collective action in public service.

A primary mission is to improve the status of women in the federal government. Currently, only 30 percent of Senior Executive Service jobs are held by women, even though women make up 50 percent of the federal workforce. Only 19 percent of the 535 people in Congress are women, though that is an improvement over 17 percent in the previous Congress. EWG is also committed to seeing more women on corporate boards.

Be Inkandescent: Do you work at all with the private sector?

Shoshana Grove: Most definitely. Senior government executives are a candidate pool for top corporate jobs, and government is recruiting senior private-sector executives. EWG works closely with top private-sector women executives, and together we form cooperative relationships to effect change.

But consider this statistic: In 2011, women occupied just 16.6 percent of Fortune 500 board seats, according to the 2012 Catalyst Census — even though the data show that companies with the highest average percentage of women directors outperformed companies in the bottom quartile by 26 percent, measured by return on invested capital. So there is plenty of room for us to grow.

Be Inkandescent: How did you get involved with EWG?

Shoshana Grove: The way many great opportunities arise—through volunteerism. A few years ago, a fellow executive who knew about my work with Women in Logistics and Delivery Services asked me to be a mentor as part of the EWG Mentor/Protégé Program. I became an active participant, and this past year the nominating committee reached out to me to run for vice president of the organization.

Be Inkandescent: You are active in Women in Logistics and Delivery Services (WILDS). Tell us more about this initiative.

Shoshana Grove: I first heard about WILDS by word of mouth while attending the National Postal Forum several years ago. At that time it was a rather rogue women’s networking group. I subsequently joined the organization and volunteered my time. I wrote an article on the group for a national trade magazine, organized events ranging from social networking happy hours to speaking events with top industry and congressional decision-makers, and I became active in the WILDS mentoring program.

I was assigned a wonderful mentor, one of the top women in the Postal Service, and met other powerful industry women who have helped me in my career. More importantly, these women have been the foundation of a supportive friendship circle that enriches my life and my work in uncountable ways. Today WILDS has grown in size, but is still a grassroots, all-volunteer organization promoting women’s leadership in the postal and delivery industries. Our programming is providing thought leadership in the delivery and logistics industries, and that provides a catalyst for positive change.

Be Inkandescent: What accomplishments have you made in improving the role of blue-collar women in government?

Shoshana Grove: The U.S. Department of Transportation Task Force on Women in Blue Collar Careers is focused on creating opportunities through outreach and awareness about blue-collar careers—including education, awareness, and removing barriers to entry. Blue-collar jobs often pay better than the minimum-wage jobs that many young woman and working mothers perform, but the barriers to entering these jobs are daunting for many women. They include difficult work culture, and lack of basic skills and information about opportunities.

As someone who started my career in a blue-collar job, I understand both the challenges and rewards of this type of work. Many of our WILDS members are leaders in companies with a large blue-collar workforce, and EWG is interested in positive change for women at every level of their careers. My hope is that the Task Force will bring additional resources to this important effort.

Be Inkandescent: Let’s talk about your work with the Postal Service. You started as a letter carrier. Was that when you were in college at GW University in DC?

Shoshana Grove: I first started as a letter carrier at the Postal Service as a summer job while in college. At that time, being a letter carrier was a very nontraditional job for women. I was one of only two women starting out at an all-male carrier unit in DC.

It was very challenging physically, mentally, and psychologically, and I enjoyed that. After college and a brief stint on Capitol Hill, I went back into the Postal Service thinking that my background would enable me to quickly move up into a managerial and ultimately corporate headquarters role. I didn’t realize at the time that it would take me more than 25 years to get to headquarters.

In those 25 years, I had many firsts in the large postal administrations where I worked: first woman supervisor, first woman station manager, and ultimately one of the first women big-city postmasters. By then, other women were entering the field and working their way up in the delivery services ranks, and we provided an informal support network for each other.

One of my prime motivators was to ensure that all workers, not just women, had a professional workplace and equal opportunity for advancement. I became very active in my district with training, development, and mentoring aimed at improving diversity among postal management. I also held leadership positions with the National Association of Postmasters of the United States and was a vocal advocate for postmasters.

Be Inkandescent: The reason we had the opportunity to meet you is thanks to an interview I did with your mother, author and GW English professor Faye Moskowitz, who hosts the popular class, Jewish Literature Live. How has she impacted your life?

Shoshana Grove: My mom is the busiest, most productive woman I know, and indeed, the more she does, the more it seems she can do. Typical of her generation, my mom married young and did not have a paid job outside the home while I was growing up in Detroit. Even so, she worked every day for the local Democratic Party. Our family came to DC when my dad got a job on Capitol Hill—a job he attributes to my mom’s efforts.

She didn’t go to college and finish her degree until she was almost 40, and since then her career has been on an upward trajectory that has not slowed down. Mom is not only a full-time professor and former department chair at GW; she is an acclaimed author and speaker, the Poetry Editor for Moment Magazine, and on GW’s Tenure and Promotions Committee.

Her huge home is always immaculate, she walks with her friendship group every day, she does water aerobics, is socially and culturally active, and she still puts dinner on the table for my dad, her biggest fan, every night, even though he is an avowed feminist. I’m still striving to accomplish half of what my mom can get done in a day.

Be Inkandescent: Tell us more about your perspective on Women in Power. Since you first became a professional, do you think women have made strides?

Shoshana Grove: No doubt women have made strides in the workplace during my career, as have minorities, but there is obviously still work to do. Look at the numbers. Subtle and overt discrimination still exists in the workplace at every level. One of the first bills President Obama signed into law during his first term was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, addressing an issue that is still prevalent in the workplace.

Be Inkandescent: What are you looking forward to in the future—in terms of the growth of women in the workforce, and also personally.

Shoshana Grove: I have great hopes for the achievements of this next generation. I love this quote from Morley Winograd and Michael Hais, authors of Millennial Momentum, who also have been Be Inkandescent magazine columnists. Here’s to the future!

“Millennials have overwhelmingly turned their backs on conventional notions about the place of women in society, making their generation the most gender-neutral, if not female-driven, in U.S. history.”

Don’t stop now! Click here to read Shoshana Grove’s 10 tips for women who want to land top jobs and be successful executives in government in our column, Tips for Entrepreneurs.

10 Tips for Attaining a Successful Government Career

What does it take to rise to the top in the government?

For the inside scoop, we sat down with Reta Jo Lewis and Shoshana Grove—the leaders of Executive Women in Government (EWG).

Founded in 1974, EWG includes hundreds of women executives who serve in the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the federal government.

“Our mission is to prepare, promote, support, and mentor women for senior leadership positions in the federal government,” says Lewis, an attorney and EWG’s president, who by day is the special representative for global intergovernmental affairs for the U.S. Department of State. “We do this by building a powerful network to share experiences, to enhance professional relationships, and to increase understanding among women executives in the federal government.”

EBW VP Grove adds: “We also strive to motivate women leaders in the federal government to contribute to effective succession-planning by creating a mentoring culture within their sphere of influence. As a result, our objectives include advocating for the advancement of women in senior leadership positions in the federal government, being mutually supportive of members’ professional pursuits, and providing an opportunity to become better acquainted with other professional women in an atmosphere conducive to the constructive exchange of professional ideas.”

Having spent decades in the public sector, both Lewis and Grove know firsthand how challenging it can be to move up the ranks in government. But both have accomplished their goals in a strategic, elegant manner, and their effectiveness is reflected in their impressive bios.

Prior to taking a top job at the State Department in the Obama administration, Reta Jo Lewis (pictured here) was vice president and counselor to the president at the US Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business federation.

She also served as a policy expert on domestic and international issues affecting small businesses. And, she worked in the Clinton White House from 1993-1995. As special assistant to the president for political affairs, she was the senior domestic political advisor for the Summit of the Americas held in Miami, Florida. In addition, she was the principal staff coordinator for the White House Task Forces on the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Paralympics Games, and the 1994 FIFA World Cup of Soccer.

Lewis also has served as a partner at an international law firm and as an attorney-advisor. She represented the City and County of Denver and Mayor Wellington Webb on international issues. She served as the city’s principal liaison to the US government when Denver hosted the 1997 G-8 Summit and the Summit of African Leaders that preceded the G-8. Since January 2010, she has been the State Department’s special representative for global intergovernmental affairs.

Shoshana Grove (pictured right) is the VP of Executive Women in Government, who by day heads the Office of Secretary & Administration for the Postal Regulatory Commission.

Prior to assuming her current role, Grove was manager of Ground Products at the US Postal Service, where she managed relationships with some of the Postal Service’s largest mailers and business partners and was instrumental in developing and marketing strategic initiatives, such as the Priority Mail Flat Rate Box, Online Notification of Carrier Pickup, and Click-N-Ship.

So how did these ladies rise to the top—and how can you take a page from their playbook? Scroll down to find out.


10 Tips for Achieving a Successful Government Career

Images by flickr: creative commons

1. Have a strategic plan for your career.

  • Reta Jo Lewis says: Ask yourself on regular basis: What’s my strategy for my career growth? What’s my plan to get where I want to go? And then take it a step further, and think through the steps of how you are going to implement that plan.
  • Shoshana Grove says: Once you know what jobs you aspire to, prepare and groom yourself for those jobs by ensuring you have taken the right continuing education courses, have the proper degrees, and also have volunteered on special projects that will give you the experience you need for future job growth.

2. Have a multipurpose network.

  • Reta Jo Lewis says: It’s always important to surround yourself with people whom you admire and trust, and who will guide you as you mature in your career. As you develop these relationships, be sure that your most trusted advisors are those whom you can go to for the honest truth—including advice on areas in which you need to improve and develop additional skill sets. Even if those comments are hard to hear, they are important if you are hoping to rise up in the ranks of government.
  • Shoshana Grove says: Be sure you don’t call on someone in your network only when you need a favor, either. Be helpful, and volunteer when you can. If you are seen as a go-to person and a helper, opportunities will arise for you in the future.

3. Seek out volunteer opportunities.

  • Reta Jo Lewis says: I often think that volunteering is an excellent opportunity to grow your experience, especially when you go beyond the call of duty. Working weekends, nights, and on additional assignments beyond your usual work assignments is critical.
  • Shoshana Grove says: The people who get ahead are those who go above and beyond their usual assignments, and who make themselves available for projects that need to get done.

4. Be comfortable with the idea of moving—between agencies, and to another city, state, or country.

  • Reta Jo Lewis says: Historically, government employees would spend their entire careers in one agency. I have a lot of respect for them, because they had tremendous knowledge of that agency and were effective leaders as they moved up the ranks. But in this new job market, that has changed. More demands are being placed on agencies and administrations. In the work I’m doing now at the State Department, people are moving around during their careers—and you can’t be afraid to move. That goes for moving to other states and countries.
  • Shoshana Grove says: Several times in my career I got to a point where I was stuck, and I knew that I wouldn’t get any higher unless I changed jobs and departments. Being flexible, and being willing to move around, was one of the keys to moving up in my career.

5. Look ahead. What skills are currently the most sought-after when it comes to hiring someone for a government job? And what are the growth areas in government? Which agencies will be biggest, and most effective, in the years to come?

  • Reta Jo Lewis says: Social media is one of the hottest areas in terms of communications. Those who can use technology and the new social media tools will be sought after. I’m always looking for those skills when I hire a young person in my department. I’m also looking for people who are innovative, and this will continue to be a focus in the years to come as we continue to re-engineer our organizations. And in this 21st century world, cyber security is and will continue to be a growing field in the government. So many organizations are focused on this, so for those who are skilled with these tools and are drawn to the field, cyber security is definitely a good area to focus on.
  • Shoshana Grove says: Many government agencies are looking for job candidates who have a strong background in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math). Of course, a strong liberal arts background is also valuable, for there is always a place for employees with strong basic skills: someone who is level-headed, can use today’s technology well, and can communicate articulately.

6. Always do your homework before asking for a meeting.

  • Reta Jo Lewis says: When you talk with someone you want to partner with, market yourself for a new job, and are looking for a mentor—be sure to do research on that person and learn as much as you can about them, and their organization. Also, make sure the conversation is relevant to them, and their organization. You never want to waste anyone’s time. So before you ask for a meeting, know what outcome you hope to attain; then guide the conversation in that direction.
  • Shoshana Grove says: Knowledge is power. Especially when so much information is available on the Internet, there’s no reason that you wouldn’t come into an interview fully prepared.

7. Teamwork is the key to success.

  • Reta Jo Lewis says: There’s no “I” in teamwork, and while that’s a trite saying—it’s true. In the government, we joke that we are in meetings all day long, but the reason is that we need to know what each other is doing so that we can move forward the goals of the department and agency we are working for. That’s why we’re here, and working together to bring out the best in each other will always be the key to success for any organization—public or private.
  • Shoshana Grove says: I think there’s a sports analogy here, where the coach’s job is to bring out the best in all of her (or his) players. Managers in government agencies are the same—the key to success is team cohesion. People who don’t thrive in that environment tend to be disruptive, and that’s another reason why we look for people who are level-headed, good communicators, and also those who want to play on a “team.”

8. Develop strong relationships with trusted colleagues.

  • Reta Jo Lewis says: I have been very fortunate to have worked in the Clinton administration and the Obama administration. One of the things that has helped me is having developed relationships with people whom I respect the most, and as it turns out, the people I worked with 20 years ago are many of the people I’m working with today. So you have to have a long-term approach to your professional development, because while people move around a lot in government—they have long memories.
  • Shoshana Grove says: I couldn’t agree more. Especially in government, people look to surround themselves with people they trust, people who are loyal, and of course people who are good at what they do. Building those relationships over a period of time is one of the best tips we can offer, because those connections are they key to career advancement. You never know who is going to be your colleague, your employee—or your boss—in the future.

9. Know that every day is an interview.

  • Reta Jo Lewis says: You never know who you are going to come into contact with. You need to know the rules of your business, and be sensitive and clear about where everyone fits in the organization. But the truth is that everyone you meet is important—from those who have lesser jobs than you, to the president of the United States. And as women are in positions of managerial responsibility, we are not only interviewing others each day—they are interviewing us. Upward mobility is the goal for almost everyone in government, so it’s important always to do your best, and to be on your best behavior.
  • Shoshana Grove says: I have long known that how you present yourself every day is important. You never know whom you are going to meet, or what relationship you make today—as insignificant as it may seem—will be important to you later in your career. My tip is to take every opportunity you can to put your best foot forward.

10. Dress for success.

  • Reta Jo Lewis says: People see you before they hear you. Is it bad that people form an impression based on your attire? Well, yes. But in today’s competitive work environment, make sure you have an edge. Don’t let your appearance keep you from moving forward in your career. Even in environments where dressing casual is encouraged, be sure to be careful to present yourself well.

For more information about Executive Women in Government, visit www.execwomeningov.org.

Are you one of the nearly 3,000 women in government who is eligible to be part of this growing organization? For details about membership, click here.

For a listing of EWG’s upcoming events and activities, click here.

When I was younger I thought success was being a star, driving nice cars, having groupies. But today I think the most important thing is to live your life with integrity.

– Ellen DeGeneres

You’ve got to be willing to crash and burn. If you’re afraid of failing, you won’t get very far.”

– Steve Jobs

An entrepreneur tends to bite off a little more than he can chew hoping he’ll quickly learn how to chew it.“


– Roy Ash, co-founder of Litton Industries

Destiny is a name often given in retrospect to choices that had dramatic consequences.”

– J.K. Rowling

Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which obstacles vanish.”

– John Quincy Adams

The only dream worth having is to live while you’re alive and die only when you’re dead.”

– Arundhati Roy

It is possible to fail in many ways…while to succeed is possible only in one way.”

– Aristotle

We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”

– Winston Churchill

I have spent a good part of my life convincing people that a blank sheet of paper is the greatest opportunity in the world, and not frightening at all.”

– Marty Skler, executive vp, Walt Disney Imagineering

It is only when the mind is free from the old that it meets everything anew, and in that there is joy.”

– J. Kristnhamurti, The First and Last Freedom

As each woman realizes her power, she transforms the world.”

– Patrice Wynne, WomanSpirit Sourcebook

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

– Anais Nin

A diamond is a lump of coal that stuck with it.”

– Norwegian proverb

Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

You may ask me for anything you like except time.”

– Napoleon

Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do.
 Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.”

– Ella Fitzgerald

Happiness is an attitude. We either make ourselves miserable, or happy and strong. The amount of work is the same.”

– Francesca Reigle

Instead of loving your enemies, treat your friends a little better.”

– Edgar W. Howe

You don’t love someone because of their looks or their clothes or their car. You love them because they sing a song only your heart can understand.”

– L.J. Smith

It is to no purpose to turn away from the real nature of the affair because the honor of its elements excites repugnance.

– Carl von Clausewitz, On War

Entrepreneurs need to search purposefully for the sources of innovation that indicate opportunities for success.”

– Peter F. Drucker

Don’t follow, lead. Don’t copy, create. Don’t start, finish. Don’t sit still, move. Don’t fit in, stand out. Don’t sit quietly, speak up. (Not all the time, sure, but more often.)”

– Seth Godin

The awakening to the mystery of life is a revolutionary event; in it an old world is destroyed so that a new and better one may take its place.”

– J.J. Van Der Leeuw, The Conquest of Illusion

Persist and persevere, and you will find most things that are attainable, possible.”

– Lord Chesterfield

If you do not tell the truth about yourself
, you cannot tell it about other people.”

– Virginia Woolf

Think of yourself as on the threshold of unparalleled success. A whole, clear, glorious life lies before you. Achieve! Achieve!”

– Andrew Carnegie

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently.”

– Steve Jobs, Apple, Inc.

If it really was a no-brainer to make it on your own in business there’d be millions of no-brained, harebrained individuals quitting their day jobs.”

– Bill Rancic, "The Apprentice"

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.”

– Robert Louis Stevenson

You only live once. But if you do it right, once is enough.”

– Mae West

We are not meant to resolve all contradictions, but to live with them and rise above them.”

– William Blake

Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”

– Groucho Marx

I will pay more for the ability to deal with people than any other ability under the sun.”

– John D. Rockefeller

Our deepest wishes are whispers of our authentic selves. We must learn to respect them. We must learn to listen.”

– Sarah Ban Breathnach

Things don’t change. You change your way of looking, that’s all.”

– Carlos Castaneda

Treat the attainment of happiness in the same way an entrepreneur would approach building a business — with a vision, plan, goals, and a systematic approach.”

– Ted Leonsis

To follow, without halt, one aim: There’s the secret of success.”

– Anna Pavlova

Do not say, ‘why were the former days better than these,’ for it is not from wisdom that you ask this.”

– Ecclesiastes, 7:10

The biggest flaw in our existing theory of capitalism lies in its misrepresentation of human nature.”

– Muhammad Yunus

Who cares if my glass is half empty or half full; I still have something to drink.”

– Optimism rules

With ordinary talents and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable.”

– Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton

A truly forgiving person is someone who experiences all the anger merited by injustice and still acts with fairness and compassion.”

– Martha Beck

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

– Mary Oliver

‎That which grows fast withers as rapidly; that which grows slowly endures.”

– J.G. Holland, novelist

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

– Leonardo da Vinci

There is little success where there is little laughter.”

– Andrew Carnegie

Challenge is a dragon with a gift in its mouth. Tame the dragon and the gift is yours.”

– Noela Evans

The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.”

– Henry Miller

You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing.”

– Maya Angelou

The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

– Carl Rogers

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