Women's History Month: Advancing the Mission

March is National Women's History Month, an annual celebration of the contributions women have made in years past and the society they are helping lead today. The 2016 theme, Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government, provided an opportunity for the country to recognize women who have helped shape America's history through their public service and government leadership. It has also allowed the Department of State to look at the landscape of public service and government today. Women's History Month provided an opportune time to highlight the women currently in DOS leadership roles, as well as reveal the areas where vast improvements could be made to open doors for additional women.

It is no secret that women are greatly underrepresented in elected positions and political leadership. Within the U.S. Senate, only 20 of the 100 members are women. Of the 435 members of the House of Representatives, 84 are women. On a local level, we see similar statistics. Within the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, there are 37 women serving out of a total of 203. The Pennsylvania Senate has 50 members and only 9 of them are women.

A great many political careers, however, do not start in leadership positions within the halls of the U.S. Capitol Building or the White House. Often, impactful political leaders begin their careers in city halls and state capitols throughout the country. With more women occupying local offices, we will begin to see the shift on the national level.

Understanding the importance of diversity in the workplace, I remain grateful every day that many highly talented and dedicated women have chosen to join our team in various leadership capacities. At the Pennsylvania Department of State, we have a deep commitment to equality in hiring and opportunity. Within the Department, women hold 24 of the 38 leadership positions and account for 58% of all staff. It is an honor and privilege to serve alongside my female colleagues. They are great role models for my 16-year-old daughter. Through them she can see a broad spectrum of career paths, educational backgrounds and various interests. Having been raised by my mother and sister, I feel deeply compelled to advance the mission of increased opportunity and equity for all.

In an effort to inspire young women to take interest in government leadership and public service careers, the Department of State celebrated the women in our department with a campaign to highlight the various roles and positions they hold. The titles and duties were accompanied with a relevant quote from each of them explaining why they enjoy working in government. The successful campaign received media attention and reached tens of thousands on social media platforms.

On March 29, the Department wrapped up the month-long social media campaign with an hour-long Twitter Town Hall. The goal of the #GovLikeAWoman social media event was to encourage women to run for office, work in government and engage in the civic life of their communities. We also wanted to have an open dialogue about young women and girls becoming more interested in public service. The conversation was enlightening and the comments from participants were truly inspiring:

"It is important to have women pursue careers in public service to ensure that all perspectives have a seat at the table."

"I think it's important to get more young girls involved by being mentors and highlighting each other's accomplishments."

"I work in government/public service to ensure women and children's voices are heard and their needs met."

Women have a unique perspective and voice that should be heard at all levels of government. Women's History Month may only be celebrated one month out of the year, but we must continue to celebrate women's accomplishments, mentor and lead a younger generation 365 days a year.