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A Thank You to the Federal Government

About this time last year I was at the ELC (Executive Leadership Conference) sponsored by ACT/IAC (www.actgov.com) when, during a passionate discussion, an attendee from State Department wagged his finger at the contractors at the table and said “Look, you guys come to us when you need something. You want our time. Our energy. Our support. Our program dollars. But where are you when we need YOUR help getting support for our programs? Where are you when people say bad things about us as employees? Where are you when we become the national punching bag?”

Our table included attendees from DHS and GSA and they nodded their head in vigorous agreement. As a former GS employee I understood where he was coming from. A prickle of guilt tugged at me. I believe in the value of government. I believe we are a better country when there is true public/private partnership. I don’t believe that government should be an opportunity for contractors to ‘get rich’. I do believe that government *should* be an opportunity for all of us to participate in a more meaningful way.

Maybe I’m a pollyanna. I’ve been called that. But I believe that government well run and focused on its mission – which is to SERVE and PROTECT the citizens of the United States – is an opportunity for all of us to be part of that service.

It’s an election year. As usual, in election years, the federal government is a favorite political punching bag. I’m really not okay with that. And this morning I got a reminder of why.

I believe in voting. I am constantly grateful to the women who – less than 100 years ago mind you – sacrificed a great deal to make sure that I am *allowed* to vote. In the weeks leading up to the election I’ve been featuring a “series” on the suffragettes and the 19th amendment. Their story is powerful. I was working on this week’s entry when I came across a great timeline of women’s history…and here are a few:

1872 Congress passed a law giving women federal employees equal pay for equal work. Today we are still earning ~78 cents for each dollar a man earns…but way to go feds for being ahead of the game!

In 1920 the Department of Labor recognized that women were a sizable part of the workforce and that we didn’t know much about them. So the Women’s Bureau was formed. And get this, 13 years later the FIRST woman to serve in a Presidential Cabinet position did so as the Secretary of Labor (yay Francis Perkins.) She held that position for 12 years – through the worst of the depression AND WWII.

You’d think that nearly 100 years AFTER the equal pay for equal work rule we’d have gotten it right…but there was clearly more to do. And so in 1967 Executive Order 11375 expanded Lyndon Johnson’s affirmative action policy (signed in 1965) to cover discrimination based on gender. This EO requires that Feds AND the contractors who support them have to take active measures to ensure that women and minorities enjoy the same educational and employment opportunities as white males.

Change is hard. But in each of these cases it was the Federal government who led (and is leading) the way in implementing change that fundamentally enables equal rights AND equal opportunity for women and minorities. We still have a long way to go – but here is my BIG thank you to the Federal Government.

You deserve it. Keep up the good work!

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David Dejewski

I like the fact that you highlight government’s leadership role with things like women’s rights. I’d add that the government leads in other areas too – like standards and racial discrimination. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. It reminds me of the value government creates. 🙂