Long before the Department opened its doors in 2003, women were carrying out the mission to ensure a safe and secure America. In World War II, Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service), operated banks of cryptanalysis machines, also known as bombes, to decipher German code in what are now the halls of DHS headquarters.
Ida Lewis served in the U.S. Lighthouse Service, one of the Coast Guard's predecessors. In 1881, she was officially credited with saving 18 lives during her 39 years at Lime Rock Light Station in Newport, Rhode Island and was awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal.
Women have played integral roles in countless missions as part of the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve or SPARs program, Semper Paratus – Always Ready, created in 1942. More than 10,000 women volunteered between 1942 and 1946.
Today, as we celebrate our fifteenth anniversary, women from all walks of life serve in the department’s component agencies. Serving as Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Secret Service agents, Federal Emergency Management Agency coordinators, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center officers, and so much more.
In 2009, Janet Napolitano became the first woman to lead the Department of Homeland Security as Secretary. Today, we invite you to get to know some of our current female leaders and explore resources for the next generation of women in DHS to make their mark. Today, women lead the Department of Homeland Security, including Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen, Deputy Secretary Elaine C. Duke, and Under Secretary for Management Claire M. Grady.
At DHS, we uphold our commitment to women through our work to combat human trafficking, protect immigrants who are victims of domestic violence and other crimes, and ensure parents have the tools they need to keep their children safe online, and in many other ways. We also uphold that commitment within our own workforce, by doing all we can to recruit qualified and talented staff, and by helping create an environment where everyone has the opportunity to advance and thrive. Whether through leadership development programs, such as FLETC’s international Women In Law Enforcement Leadership Training Program, policies like Coast Guard Maternity Leave, or programs like the DHS Council on Combating Violence Against Women, our department supports women every day.
This month and every month, DHS honors the women who safeguard the American people, protect our homeland, and embody our values.