Women taking charge

One of the first things that struck me when I arrived here and began meeting people in the technology shops that Federal Computer Week covers was the number of women in positions of prominence and power.

From Linda Cureton at NASA and Molly O’Neill at the Environmental Protection Agency to Casey Coleman, Mary Davie and Bev Godwin at the General Services Administration, women seem to have risen to the top echelons of technology in every corner of the government. And right behind them are a legion of up-and-coming women in high-profile and high-impact IT jobs.

To be frank, that’s not what one expects to encounter in the modern tech world. In private industry, including the place I came from, women have established a large, if not yet equal, presence in marketing, finance and editorial department hierarchies. But the IT shops seem to be stocked with men from top to bottom.

I was soon able to test my early impressions on this subject at a meeting of Women in Technology, a Washington metropolitan-area networking association that brings together professionals from government and industry. Charlotte Pelliccia, a past president of the group, wasn’t so sure about my hypothesis that women have a disproportionate share of offices in government — as opposed to corporate — executive suites.

But Pelliccia and a number of her colleagues at WIT agreed that government does seem to offer the still-small percentage of women who wish to pursue a career in technology a welcoming environment. Why that should be the case is open to anyone’s speculation.

One way to get some good anecdotal evidence is to read the profiles compiled in a new book, “No One Path: Perspectives on Leadership from a Decade of Women in Technology Award Winners,” which WIT is releasing this month. The 48 women featured in the book — all past winners of WIT’s Leadership Awards — hail from both industry and government. Together and separately, they reflect the progress of women who marched into the professional workforce during the past 30 years and the continuing challenges they face in the modern workplace.

We have selected four profiles of women in the government sector and present excerpts in this issue.

“No One Path” will be released at a WIT reception in McLean, Va., next week. For more information or to purchase copies of the book, go to www.womenintechnology.org.

Elsewhere in this issue, staff writer Ben Bain reports on a project at the National Archives and Records Administration, which has teamed with Footnote.com, an online historical archiving service, to make millions of Holocaust-era records available online. A unique feature of the project will memorialize Holocaust victims with Facebook pages.

About the Author

David Rapp is editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week and VP of content for 1105 Government Information Group.

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