On International Women’s Day, we reflect on the remarkable contributions of women across our Department’s workforce, our government, our economy, culture, and society – and rededicate ourselves to our country’s never-ending pursuit of a more perfect union.
This day is also part of Women’s History Month, a time to recognize the achievements of women across the generations – and continue the push for gender parity and equity around the globe. The Administration released a National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality this past year, declaring that securing the opportunity for all people, regardless of gender, to realize their full potential is both a moral and strategic imperative. This is not a matter of rhetoric for me; it grows out of real and lived experience.
In my role as the Assistant Secretary for Partnerships and Engagement, I am privileged to work with women at all levels of our Department to advance our shared mission. These women are developing and carrying out our policies in immigration, counterterrorism, emergency management, cybersecurity, aviation, maritime, and border security, human trafficking, law enforcement, and more. I witness the effectiveness and capability of women in DHS, and I feel a sense of determination and obligation to build on their efforts, grow their ranks, and open doors to the next generation.
Yet as a naturalized citizen, and as someone who grew up under severe dictatorship, I also know never to take this for granted. Here at DHS and throughout our country women are leading at all levels of our society and making our communities and country stronger as a result.
For example, the U.S. Secret Service hired its first women agents just 50 years ago. The Department boasted its first woman Secretary a little over a decade ago. Today, women make up 35% of our workforce, and lead DHS agencies and offices nationwide. Progress rarely comes with ease or in a straight line. We must continue to develop and empower women to lead at every level, and equip them with the tools they need to succeed.
And we are, in our personnel and our policies.
When Secretary Mayorkas kicked off the largest cybersecurity hiring initiative in DHS history, our focus wasn’t simply adding more employees – it was ensuring that our cyber workforce looks like the nation we serve and protect.
When Director Jen Easterly and her team at CISA wanted to ramp up our investment in the next generation of cyber talent, they partnered with the Girl Scouts to launch the 2021 Girl Scout Cyber Awareness Challenge, an initiative to encourage girls in grades 6-12 to learn about cybersecurity and become leaders in this space in their communities.
Our Office of State and Local Law Enforcement initiated a new recruitment campaign, they forged a path toward our Women in Law Enforcement hiring sprint, which is happening now. This effort will continue long past this month as part of our larger 30x23 initiative – our pledge to ensure women make up 30% of our sworn law enforcement officers by 2023. Research from the NYU School of Law shows that women officers use excessive force less frequently, interact more effectively with diverse communities, achieve better outcomes for crime victims, and appear in fewer complaints and lawsuits than male officers. The Department is eager to be a model for other agencies in this regard.
And in my role at the Office of Partnerships & Engagement, we ensure that when the voices of the Department’s stakeholders are heard to assist our policymaking, it includes the voices of women in everything we do.
All of this just scratches the surface. Far more is happening – and will continue to happen – to meet our goals of equity and fairness. Because we know that when women have a seat at the table, when women serve in law enforcement, when women lead in our Department and beyond, our families are safer. Our communities are stronger. Our country is better off.
This March, and all year round, let’s pay tribute to the incredible women of DHS – and never lose sight of our promise of equality for all. Here at the Department, we will be recognizing the work of women past and present all month long. Take time to read and listen to their powerful stories and the indispensable roles they play in upholding the noble mission of DHS.