NEW MEXICO — Did you know in the early days of the Forest Service women were not yet allowed to vote? It has been less than 100 years since women of the United States have attained national suffrage.
The 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution was certified on August 26, 1920, assuring that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” National Women’s Equality Day, on August 26, celebrates the official anniversary and represents the continued efforts towards full equality.
This year’s theme, “Expanding Opportunities For All”, brings into focus benefits and challenges of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The theme places emphasis on “All” bringing attention to all women. Of the 33.8% women serving in agency, 5.9%, are women of color. These demographics remind us that an individual’s identity has many dimensions. These dimensions include: race, ethnicity, color, gender identity, age, class, religion, national origin, sexuality, etc. and do not exist in isolation. As the term “intersectionality” emphasizes, they work collectively to affect our experiences and behaviors. Women come to the workplace with various backgrounds and life experience offering a diverse perspective. When we lean in together we expand opportunities for all. As an Agency we are committed to interdependence and diversity. With that in mind, let’s reflect on a few key lessons:
Even champions for equality can be biased: We tend to rely on stereotypes to simplify incoming information. It is important to recognize and manage the unconscious bias within ourselves as we advocate for true equality. The Lean In organization offers six short videos that address the concept of intersectionality and the most common types of bias women face.
Leadership takes courage: If a single individual can lead positive change, imagine what a collective group can do! Throughout history, courageous people have led the charge in the perseverance for equal rights. Momentous change happens when we dare to lead. The Forest Service’s booklet This Is Who We Are states,”Every one of us is a leader, regardless of our job title.” Inclusive, caring, and respectful leadership can happen at any level, and involves strength of character, making measured decisions, and possessing the courage to speak up when we see biased behaviors in others.
Change doesn’t happen overnight: It took the women and men of the suffrage movement decades to attain equal voting access. Just as they continue to champion the cause of Women’s Equality in all aspects of life, the Forest Service continues to work toward a cultural shift within the agency and services offered. Gender differences, as with any other differences, strengthen the workforce and enhance our ability to successfully achieve our mission. The Forest Service is firmly committed to fostering a diverse workforce, inclusive of all voices, that directly reflects the people we serve, honoring the ideas and perspectives that facilitate positive change.
Observing Women’s Equality Day on August 26, 2019 not only celebrates the long-awaited passage of the 19th Amendment, but acknowledges that, regardless of identity, gender equality benefits everyone and helps promote inclusion. Please take a moment to reflect on what “Expanding Opportunities For All” means to you, dare to lead, and make a difference. As Gloria Steinem so poignantly said: "The future depends entirely on what each of us does every day; a movement is only people moving."
Visit the Outreach and Diversity SharePoint site at: https://usdagcc.sharepoint.com/sites/fs-cr-od/SitePages/Welcome!.aspx and the Federal Women’s Program Core Team SharePoint site at: https://usdagcc.sharepoint.com/sites/fs-cr-wsep/SitePages/Home.aspx. Both sites are updated often.