Federal Women's Program



The Federal Women's Program (FWP) is one of several federally mandated programs. It began with the passing of the 19th Amendment on August 26th, 1920, which granted women the right to vote in the United States. Since 1971, August 26th is recognized every year as “Women’s Equality Day” and activities are done to memorialize the strenuous fight for women’s equality. In October 1967, the category of “sex” was added as a protected category from unlawful discrimination with Executive Order 11375. Then, In August 1969, Executive Order 11478 formed the mandate for establishment of a Federal Women’s Program for each Federal Agency and placed the responsibility under the purview of Directors of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) for each Federal Agency. Finally, In March of 1972, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was amended to add this protection to Federal employees and added to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) under 29 CFR 1614.102.


Each year, the month of March is celebrated as “Women’s History Month” in commemoration of “International Women’s Day,” celebrated in Europe on March 8th. During March, we pause to recognize women’s achievements and contributions to our planet and our communities. At VA, we believe it is important to celebrate the achievements of the suffrage movement and know that the larger fight for diversity and inclusion in an ongoing battle is even more vital. As current statistics show the struggle for inclusion and diversity, especially in the workforce, continues to this day.





Commerce Blog: Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business




On Wednesday, March 29, 2017, in honor of the 2017 Women’s History Month theme “Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business,” the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) hosted a panel discussion designed to highlight the achievements and contributions of women who work within the Department.


Cristina Bartolomei, EEO Specialist at the OCR, moderated a panel comprised of four women who have made extraordinary contributions to the mission and vision of the Department: Ms. Lisa M. Blumerman, Associate Director for Decennial Census Programs at the Census Bureau; Ms. Elizabeth F. Fong, Computer Scientists and Dean of Staff at NIST; Ms. Pamela K. Isom, Director of the Office of Application Engineering and Development at USPTO; and Ms. Sharon A. Tosi Lacey, Chief Historian at the Census Bureau. Additionally, the event featured historical photographs of female Commerce employees through the decades that supported the agency with their efforts, but may not have been fully recognized in their own time.


The panelists spoke about the history of women at the Department, career struggles and triumphs, and the importance of finding one’s voice. Below is information about their current roles within their respective bureaus as well as meaningful quotes and advice they shared during the event.


Lisa M. Blumerman


“You need to develop the relationships, both above, sideways and below to help you throughout each and everything that you choose to do, no one can do it alone.”

Lisa Blumerman is the U.S. Census Bureau’s Associate Director for the Decennial Census Programs.  She provides executive leadership for three major programs within the Census Bureau–the 2020 Census, the American Community Survey, and the Geographic Programs. Blumerman has worked at the Census Bureau since 1997. She has served as chief of the Customer Liaison and Marketing Services Office; deputy chief of the American Community Survey Office; the administrative records coordinator in the Policy Office; and chief of the Population Estimates Branch. The U.S. Department of Commerce has honored her contributions by awarding her a silver and two bronze medals for distinguished service in the federal government.

Find out more about Lisa and her role at the Census Bureau


Sharon A. Tosi Lacey


“We had women who were doing some pretty amazing things at a time when most women didn’t have that […] We had some women who were supervisors for the Census Bureau who then went on to be very well respected lawyers – one of the women we featured, Minnie Burke Smith, her son actually became the Secretary of Commerce in 1968! So there’s a lot of women doing amazing things both in the Census Bureau and outside.”

“You can have it all, just not all at once!”

Sharon A. Tosi Lacey has been the Chief Historian at the US Census Bureau since June 2015. Prior to that, she spent more than 25 years as an officer in the US Army, both on active duty and in the Reserves. Sharon is a graduate of the United States Military Academy, Long Island University, and the University of Leeds.

Find out more about Sharon by reading her Spotlight on Commerce blog post


Elizabeth F. Fong


“When I grew up in China I went to the grocery store with my mother and my mother always carried a weight, the Chinese version of a weight, to measure, so that the merchant who was selling the vegetable wasn’t cheating. When I came to NIST I said ‘oh, this is the main mission that NIST does!!’”


Elizabeth Fong is a computer scientist currently working in the Software and Systems Division, Information Technology Laboratory of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) at Gaithersburg, MD. She began her career as a computer programmer with the Bell Telephone Laboratory at Whippany, NJ, and was a member of a team in 1961-63 that developed the first electronic switching system (ESS-1) for the nation’s telephone network. In 1967, she joined NIST (then the National Bureau of Standards) as a computer scientist.  Since then, she has worked on research, analysis, and evaluation of innovative information technology software and practices with emphasis on new fields of computer technology for Federal Government applications. 

Find out more about Elizabeth, her role at NIST, and some of her publications


Pamela K. Isom


“I don’t think that you’re ever too good to reach out for help [...] If I were to give any advice to any leader, any aspiring leader, or even for those of us who are mentoring the ones that are growing up, is about how we do things better together. It really is. If four of five people get together to solve a problem, the solution is more sustainable, because it’s been vetted. It’s been vetted better.”

“Challenges don’t block me, they make me.”


“Where there’s a problem, there’s innovation.”


Mrs. Pamela K. Isom is the Executive Director of the Office of Application Engineering and Development (AED), an office of the CIO at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. She joined USPTO in January 2015 from the private sector, bringing a wealth of leadership and innovative information and technology (IT) experiences to the Federal Government. This year, Mrs. Isom is grateful yet humbled to be a part of the Women of Innovation commemorative display hosted by the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF), USPTO’s long-time private sector partner. Holding five patents, numerous publications, and a published book entitled “Is Your Company Ready for Cloud”, Mrs. Isom speaks often about how delighted she is to be a part of the USPTO family, leading people and the evolution of computer systems that protect the nation’s intellectual property.

Find out more about Pamela by reading her Spotlight on Commerce blog post


This event was hosted by OCR as part of their Inclusion is on US campaign, which aims to promote an organizational culture that respects, values, welcomes and engages all employees, regardless of their primary diversity dimensions, including race, color, gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, disability, and religious beliefs. An inclusive environment enables Commerce to draw from all segments of society and leverage a multitude of talents, to meet Commerce’s diverse missions.


For more employee profiles and related content, check out the Women's History Month section of our website.




EEOC Report Examines Obstacles Facing Women in Federal Workplace


The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today issued a comprehensive report addressing major obstacles hindering equal opportunities for women in the federal workforce, in addition to highlighting stakeholder recommendations.  The report is available on EEOC's website at http://www.eeoc.gov/federal/reports/women_workgroup_report.cfm.


The report, prepared by an internal agency work group, is based upon in-depth research and widespread consultations with key stakeholder groups representing working women, as well as other affinity organizations (referred to in the report as "dialogue partners").

"While women have made enormous strides in federal employment, there are still significant obstacles which hinder their advancement," said Carlton M. Hadden, director of EEOC's Office of Federal Operations. "This effort is the latest step in an ongoing dialogue with the EEOC's stakeholders to effectuate a model federal workplace for all employees. The work group and its report are also very timely, since they are based on the EEOC's Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2012-2016."


Following are the six obstacles identified in the EEOC Women's Work Group Report:

• Inflexible workplace policies create challenges for women with caregiver obligations in the federal workforce.
• Higher-level and management positions remain harder to obtain for women.
• Women are underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields in the federal workforce.
• Women and men do not earn the same average salary in the federal government.
• Unconscious gender biases and stereotypical perceptions about women still play an important role in employment decisions in the federal sector.
• There is a perception that federal agencies lack commitment to achieving equal opportunities for women in the federal workplace.


Each of the six obstacles highlighted in the report contain background information, as well as underlying issues and specific recommendations from the work group's dialogue partners -- who independently and repeatedly identified the aforementioned impediments.  The report is being issued to memorialize the obstacles and recommendations of EEOC's dialogue partners.


The EEOC's dialogue partners in the report included:

• Federally Employed Women (FEW)
• The Women's Bar Association of the District of Columbia
• Federal EEO Directors and Federal Special Emphasis Program Managers
• The Equal Justice Society
• Workplace Flexibility 2010
• The Equal Rights Center
• Blacks in Government (BIG)
• African-American Federal Executives Association (AAFEA)


The work group also received valuable input from academic expert Dr. Paula Caplan, who is the Voices of Diversity Project Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University.

The EEOC has issued similar reports focusing on federal employment of African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, and people with targeted disabilities. The reports are available online at http://www.eeoc.gov/federal/reports/index.cfm.


The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination in the private and public sectors.  Further information about the agency is available online at www.eeoc.gov.


Office of Civil Rights (OCR)
U.S. Department of Commerce

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Page last updated May 3, 2017