• 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.

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

– T.S. Eliot

I may not be able to change what takes place, but I can always choose to change my thinking.”

– Michelle Sedas

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

– Martha Beck

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

– Albert Einstein

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

– J.K. Rowling

The music is all around us. All you have to do is listen.”

– August Rush

My goal was to tell the life side of the story. We have become a nation of voyeurs that expect sensationalism, and that offends me.”

– Kathleen Jo Ryan

Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”

– William Shakespeare

The good ideas are all hammered out in agony by individuals, not spewed out by groups.”

– Charles Brower, Advertising Hall of Fame

Do not be afraid of mistakes, providing you do not make the same one twice.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

Look at everything as though you were
seeing it either for the first or last time.
Then your time on earth will be filled with glory.”

– Betty Smith

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

If you wish success in life, make perseverance your bosom friend, experience your wise counselor, caution your elder brother, and hope your guardian genius.”

– Joseph Addison

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

– Charles Dickens

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

– Chinese Proverb

Inspiration and genius — one and the same.”

– Victor Hugo

There are children playing in the street who could solve some of my top problems in physics, because they have modes of sensory perception that I lost long ago.”

– J. Robert Oppenheimer

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

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

A discovery is said to be an accident meeting a prepared mind.”

– Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.”

– President Calvin Coolidge

The important thing is not being afraid to take a chance. The greatest failure is to not try.”

– Debbi Fields, Mrs. Fields Cookies

No longer talk at all about the kind of man a good man ought to be, but be such.”

– Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be…”

– John Lennon

In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.

– Robert Frost

Success is the necessary misfortune of life, but it is only to the very unfortunate that it comes early.”

– Anthony Trollope

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

– Arundhati Roy

What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”

– Magical

If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it, I know I can achieve it.”

– Jesse Jackson

Do you believe it is important to give back some portion of your wealth to support charitable causes?”

– Steven Schussler

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

– Muhammad Yunus

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

Always look at what you have left. Never look at what you have lost.”

– Robert H. Schuller

Do one thing every day that scares you.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.”

– Audre Lorde

Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.”

– Thomas Carlyle

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

– Anais Nin

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

Entrepreneurs willingly assume responsibility for the success or failure of a venture and are answerable for all its facets.”

– Victor Kiam

Sometimes the dreams that come true are the dreams you never even knew you had.”

– Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones

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

The great use of life is to spend it on something that will outlast it.”

– William James

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

– Albert Einstein

If it isn’t good, let it die. If it doesn’t die, make it good.”

– Ajahn Chah

Don’t follow your dreams. Chase them.”

– Richard Dumb

I always maintained that the greatest obstacle in life isn’t danger, it’s boredom. The battle against it is responsible for most of the events in the world — good or ill.”

– Dr. Evelyn Vogel, Dexter

Education is an admirable thing to have, but it is well to remember that nothing worth knowing can be taught.”

– Oscar Wilde

The man who acquires the ability to take full possession of his own mind may take possession of anything else to which he is justly entitled.”

– Andrew Carnegie

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

– General Omar Bradley

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