Editorial: Demonstrating results

Journalists are idealists by nature. We look at the world as it could be but with a clear picture of how it is today. This is an attitude that we probably share with most feds. So when we ventured to look at how women make it to the top in federal information technology, we assumed that the glass ceiling was still firmly in place.

We were pleased to find that many women did not feel they had hit a ceiling. And perhaps that should not surprise us, given that the leaders include Karen Evans, the Office of Management and Budget’s administrator for e-government and IT, and Kimberly Nelson, the Environmental Protection Agency’s CIO, who is widely seen as a rising star.

A woman often faces unique challenges, not the least of which is trying to be a good employee, a good wife and a good mother. We found that many women seem to be doing well at handling that delicate balancing act.

"Most of the jobs, whether you're in government or in the private sector, are very demanding. Most of them are not 40-hour-a-week jobs," said Kathleen Adams, senior vice president and director of the civil sector at SRA International and a former federal executive.

But many tacitly acknowledge that the playing field is not yet even. One essential step toward leveling that field has been focusing on results. "I don't think it has anything to do with women and men," Evans said. "It has to do with competency."

If the focus is truly on results and competency, it is clear that women will succeed. And perhaps that is where agencies fall short.

It was also interesting that IT operations themselves are seen as a niche. Adair Martinez, deputy CIO for benefits at the Department of Veterans Affairs, said, "IT is its own glass ceiling."

Perhaps these issues are not unrelated. If the IT shop is truly an effective part of an organization that focuses on results, it is not a niche operation but is essential to the organization’s success.

Rising Stars

Meet 21 early-career leaders who are doing great things in federal IT.

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