Excel as a High-Performing Agency

Inspiring change through the federal women's special emphasis program

Photo: Lenise Lago
Lenise Lago, acting Associate Chief, Forest Service photo.

WASHINGTON D.C. — March is National Women’s History Month. This year’s theme is “Nevertheless, She Persisted: Honoring Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.” The theme presents an opportunity to honor women who have shaped America’s history and its future through their inspirational, tireless commitment to end discrimination against women and girls.

In light of this year’s theme, it is important to acknowledge many of the actions the USDA Forest Service has taken to end discrimination of women, including:

Federal women’s special emphasis program core team formed

In 2015, the associate chief and national civil rights director formed the Federal Women’s Special Emphasis Program core team to take an in-depth look at supporting women in the workplace. This program was intended as a model that other special-emphasis programs can be based on. In 2016, with help from Research and Development social scientists, the FWSEP core team deployed an agency-wide survey of all Forest Service employees to gauge the level of interest in programming. They received over 6,300 responses from all regions, stations and areas as well as the Washington Office. While the topic of the survey was the FWSEP, one desire that emerged was to create an inclusive and welcoming environment for all. Survey findings are informing next steps in re-energizing the FWSEP, and highlights of the survey have been posted on the FWSEP SharePoint site.

National federal women’s program manager hired

In 2017, Danette “Dani” Ramirez-Montoya was hired as the national federal women’s program manager. I encourage you to visit the Civil Rights Office, Outreach and Diversity Branch SharePoint site to learn more about Dani and the special emphasis programs. Dani is overseeing a number of efforts and works closely with the FWSEP core team. Together, they will kick off Women’s History Month by launching a webinar and virtual focus group discussion series:

  • March 12, from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. ET — Work Life Balance webinar, available for all employees. More details to follow.
  • March 29, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 pm. ET — virtual focus group discussion, “How to be Supportive of Women in the Workplace.” Details can be found on the FWSEP SharePoint site.

Additional outreach and programming will be rolled out in the coming months, and I encourage all employees to take advantage of these opportunities for dialogue and engagement. 

Anti-harassment program/policy established

As previously discussed in the Leadership Corner, the Forest Service is committed to a culture based on respect and dignity that is free of harassment and discrimination. Harassment in the workplace touches everyone and will not stop unless we are all a part of the fight to stop it. We recently launched the Harassment Reporting Center, a new service for employees that provides a single, dedicated resource for reporting all forms of harassment. Visit the Anti-Harassment Program intranet site for more information. Employees can reach a Harassment Reporting Center representative by calling 844-815-8943 toll-free. Representatives are available seven days a week (including holidays) from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. ET. The agency will also present “Standing Together Against Harassment,” anti-harassment training, starting in April.

These changes represent our continuing commitment to being a model agency when it comes to creating an inclusive environment for women at all levels of the organization. The Forest Service is committed to special emphasis programs. Embracing these programs makes good business sense, and work accomplished within these programs aligns with our national priority of “uplifting and empowering our employees through a respectful, safe working environment.” These programs create opportunities to bring disparate points of view together as we engage with and learn from each other.