Department of Energy

Building a Pipeline for Federal Women in STEM: Pathways to Senior Executive Service

September 8, 2017

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“Why not you? Sometimes when opportunities present themselves we think not me. I’m not ready. I need more experience or I’m missing that one thing that would make me perfect for the job. Take the chance and begin to think YES, me.”

This was one of many words of wisdom offered by members of the Senior Executive Service who served as mentors on Wednesday, August 30, for an interagency training for women in STEM on pathways to the Senior Executive Service. At the training, hosted by the Department of Energy, the Office of Personnel Management, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the Senior Executives Association, over 100 employees learned about the ins and outs of the application process for Senior Executive Service, the highest-ranking position of career civil service (and commonly referred to by its acronym, SES).

View photos from the event here.

As of the last-published OPM data, women make up only 34% of the Senior Executive Service. While the proportion of women in the SES continue to rise, women continue to be underrepresented in STEM professions in the federal workforce (you can view Equal Employment Opportunity Commission data here). This training sought to help attendees learn more about the Executive Core Qualifications, preparing for the SES, and the SES hiring process.

Following Secretary Perry’s video address to the group as he is currently involved in the response and recovery associated with Hurricane Harvey, keynote speakers Gale Allen, Acting Chief Scientist at NASA and Kára McCullough, Miss USA and founder of Science Exploration for Kids, shared their career journeys and experience in STEM. Dr. Allen’s insights included advice on her guiding principles, the “Four Agreements” shared by author Don Miguel Ruiz:

  • To speak with integrity
  • To not take things personally
  • To avoid making assumptions (ask questions)
  • To do your best always

Cheryl Abram, Leadership “Jedi” from OPM, shared a guide to preparing for the SES, and taking ownership of your own career development. Her tips can be found online here, and Ms. Allen’s presentation can be found here.

As attendee and SES mentor Bob Lingan, Department of Energy, said, “I was impressed with the lineup of speakers as well as the women I was able to meet during the flash mentor sessions.  I learned things from Cheryl Abram’s presentation that I wish I had known earlier in my career.  No doubt the information she passed on will be helpful to attendees as they advance in their careers.”

Following the livestreamed presentations (view the recording here), there were group flash mentoring sessions with SES mentors – mentors shared guidance, skills for overcoming difficult situations for women in traditionally male-dominated fields, career planning advice, and tactics for overcoming barriers in the federal workplace from experienced government leaders.

Over 90 percent of the attendees said the event increased their interest in the SES. Attendee Jessica Mroz, a Presidential Management Fellow at the EPA said “I’ve been to a ton of leadership training this year, and that was one of the best I’ve had by far on the SES.”

For more resources on the SES, visit https://www.opm.gov/faqs/topic/Senior-Executive-Service/index.aspx