• 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.

We need to learn to set our course by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship.”

– General Omar Bradley

How do you stay resilient? It’s about momentum. Like riding a bicycle. If you stop you fall over. So I keep pedaling.”

– Diane Lane

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

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

You don’t go into a field that requires cracking people’s heads open or operating on something as delicate as the spinal cord unless you are comfortable with taking risks.”

– Dr. Ben Carson

Do one thing every day that scares you.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”

– Jimi Hendrix

‎No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of another.”

– Charles Dickens

Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them!”

– Madam C.J. Walker

The quality of your life is directly related to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably live with.”

– Tony Robbins

Most people never pick up the phone and call. Most people never ask, and that’s what separates the people who do things from the people who just dream about them.”

– Steve Jobs

The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be.”

– Bruce Lee

The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.”

– Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., U.S. Supreme Court justice

The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something.”

– Nolan Bushnell, founder, Chuck E. Cheese's

Try not to become a man of success but rather to become a man of value.”

– Albert Einstein

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

What is the point of having free will if one cannot occasionally spit in the eye of destiny?”

– Jim Butcher, White Night

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

– Mary Oliver

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

– Andrew Carnegie

The mind is everything. What you think, you become.”

– Buddha

Passion makes perfect.”

– Eugene Biro

No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it”

– Andrew Carnegie

Almost anyone can start a community, but it takes real talent and commitment to get people to show up and keep coming back.”

– Andy Sernovitz

If people like you they’ll listen to you; if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.”

– Zig Ziglar

To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life.”

– Robert Louis Stevenson

Don’t wait for someone else to lead you to your right life; that privilege—and responsibility—is yours alone.”

– Martha Beck

Whosoever knows how to fight well is not angry. Whosoever knows how to conquer enemies does not fight them.”

– Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

“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.

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

Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you’re already in heaven now.”

– Jack Kerouac

The best hobbies are the ones that take us furthest from our primary occupation.”

– Dr. Evelyn Vogel, Dexter

I’ve come to confirm that one’s title, even that of president, says little about how well one’s life has been led. No matter how much you’ve done, or how successful you’ve been, there’s always more to do, to learn, and to achieve.”

– Barack Obama

Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail. There’s only make.”

– Corita Kent

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

– Nelson Mandela

Some things are destined to be—it just takes us a couple of tries
to get there.”

– J.R. Ward, Lover Mine

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

– Thomas Edison

Don’t follow your dreams. Chase them.”

– Richard Dumb

Tolerance and patience should not be read as signs of weakness. They are signs of strength.”

– The Dalai Lama

Your own words are the bricks and mortar
of the dreams you want to realize.
 The words you choose and their use establish the life you experience.”

– Sonia Croquette

A lot of people have ideas, but few decide to do something about them now. Not next week. But today.”

– Nolan Bushnell, founder, Atari

Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. 
Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.”

– Mary Jean Irion

Confidence is the most important thing you can teach someone… if you can teach them confidence, you don’t have to teach them anything else.”

– Vin Diesel

When I dare to be powerful—to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”

– Audre Lorde

‎Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way.”

– Booker T. Washington

You take your life in your own hands, and what happens?
 A terrible thing: no one to blame.”

– Erica Jong

The person who makes a success of living is the one who see his goal steadily and aims for it unswervingly. That is dedication.”

– Cecil B. DeMille

I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent.”

– Thomas Edison

The fixity of a habit is generally in direct proportion to its absurdity.”

– Marcel Proust

A man who strikes first admits that his ideas have given out.”

– Chinese Proverb

Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly. Hold fast to dreams, for when dreams go, life is a barren field frozen with snow.”

– Langston Hughes

A person who learns to juggle six balls will be more skilled than the person who never tries to juggle more than three.”

– Marilyn vos Savant

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