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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.

Join Our Employee Resource Groups!

If you are a Commerce employee, we encourage you to join the following employee resource groups, open to all.

Federally Employed Women, Department of Commerce Chapter

The U.S. Department of Commerce headquarters in the Herbert C. Hoover Building (HCHB) has a Women of Commerce chapter of  Federally Employed Women open to all employees working at HCHB. If you'd like to learn more about this chapter and/or would like to join, contact [email protected] for more information.

Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (DOC WSTEM)

DOC WSTEM creates science cross-pollination across the bureaus, strengthens technical expertise, and empowers leadership. To join, contact Robin Bunch if you wish to be added to the DOC WSTEM listserv: [email protected] 

Check out the official DOC WSTEM promotional flyer here!

About Women's History Month

Women’s History Month had its origins as a national celebration in 1981 when Congress passed Pub. L. 97-28 which authorized and requested the President to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982, as “Women’s History Week.” Throughout the next five years, Congress continued to pass joint resolutions designating a week in March as “Women’s History Week.” In 1987 after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress passed Pub. L. 100-9 which designated the month of March 1987 as “Women’s History Month.” Between 1988 and 1994, Congress passed additional resolutions requesting and authorizing the President to proclaim March of each year as Women’s History Month. Since 1995, Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama have issued a series of annual proclamations designating the month of March as “Women’s History Month.”


The 2024 National Women’s History Month (NWHM) Theme is “Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion”.

The theme recognizes women throughout the country who understand that, for a positive future, we need to eliminate bias and discrimination entirely from our lives and institutions. 

You are encouraged to read the Presidential Proclamation for this observance month on this website.

In recognition of NWHM, the Office of Civil Rights and International Trade Administration invite you to join us for this hybrid event: The Department of Commerce’s 2024 National Women’s History Month special emphasis program “Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion” March 13, 2024, at 10 am EST.


The 2022 Women’s History Theme was “Providing Healing, Promoting Hope.”

Considering the theme for this year, it is important to note that women hold various frontline positions within Commerce in the areas of: Cybersecurity, Law Enforcement, and the Foreign Service. This year COC hosted a compelling discussion with its own frontline Women of Commerce.

Check out the video here! https://youtu.be/CeTua6fDF4w

March 2020

Valiant Women of the Vote Event with Dr. Sally Roesch Wagner 

In honor of Women's History Month and the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, please join the Office of Civil Rights for “Valiant Women of the Vote.” The event will feature an engaging lecture from the pre-eminent scholar of the diverse backbone of the women’s suffrage movement, Dr. Sally Roesch Wagner. Dr. Roesch Wagner will chat with us about the women’s suffrage movement, with a distinctive focus on the intersectional group of exemplary women who paved the way for future generations. We will also enjoy remarks from the Chief Historian of the Census, Dr. Sharon Tosi Lacey, who will talk about the connection between the Census and the suffrage movement. Attendees will be entered in a raffle to win a special prize! RSVP: [email protected] (Space is limited!)

 February 2020

Presidential Proclamation on Women's History Month 

Women have influenced and advanced every facet of American life and culture.  The strength, ingenuity, and spirit of our female leaders, innovators, and pioneers shape our Nation’s character, government, industry, families, and communities.  During Women’s History Month, we honor the women who have changed our Nation and the world, and we reaffirm our commitment to supporting the next generation of female trailblazers and dreamers as they carry forward this distinguished legacy.

This year marks the centennial anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, securing the right to vote for women.  This milestone in our country was made possible by the devotion, leadership, and perseverance of pioneers like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.  The ratification of the 19th Amendment enabled women to finally have their voices counted in voting booths, paving the way for greater female participation in all levels of government.  Heroes emerged like Frances Perkins, who, as Secretary of Labor, was the first woman to hold a cabinet-level position in the Federal Government, and Clare Boothe Luce, an influential journalist, playwright, Congresswoman, and the first woman appointed to a major ambassadorial post abroad...

Read more here. 

August 2019

Presidential Proclamation on Women's Equality Day 

On Women’s Equality Day, we commemorate the 99th anniversary of the adoption of the 19th Amendment as part of the United States Constitution, which secured for women the right to vote.  This historic event was the culmination of the decades-long struggle of courageous suffragists determined to ensure the right of women to shape the course of our Republic through the ballot box.  On Women’s Equality Day, we commemorate the efforts of those groundbreaking activists, celebrate the remarkable achievements of women, and reaffirm our commitment to equality under the law for all Americans.

Read more about Women's Equality Day 2019

 March 2017

Commerce Blog: Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business

Women at Work: U.S. Department of Commerce
Highlights from the Office of Civil Rights' panel discussion for Women's History Month on March 29, 2017.

  • [Title card: "Women at work: Insights from Commerce employees"]

    [Title card: "Women in the U.S. Census Bureau"]

    [Sharon A. Tosi Lacey, Chief Historian at the Census Bureau]

    In 1920, we started appointing women as supervisors, both in the field and at the Census Bureau, and we've been highlighting on our social media and our website seven of these women who were the first supervisors. Some of their jobs-- the ones at the headquarters. One of the women--you'll see her picture here--of her with the Marcelled hair, pouring over a large book. That's Mary Oursler. She was the Keeper of the Census and she was the person who rescued most of the Census records from being destroyed. And after the 1921 fire destroyed much of the 1890 Census, she was the one who lobbied to have it put into a fireproof vault. And she was the person they would contact--over a hundred thousand people a year--to do age verification, because most people didn't have birth certificates at that time. So we have her to thank for the fact that we have so many rich records. We also had--I don't think we have our picture up there, but another woman at the Bureau was in charge of all the personnel and then yet another woman was the first--she was the Deputy Chief Statistician for the 1920 and 1930 Census. So we had some women doing some pretty amazing things at a time when most women didn't have that. And in the field the women we had--supervisors were only—you know, it was a six-month position. You had to map the area, you had to hire all of your enumerators, and you had to make sure all the Census was conducted in two to four weeks, depending if you were rural or urban. And we had some women who were supervisors for the Census Bureau then went on to be very well respected lawyers. One of the women we feature, Minnie Burke Smith, her son actually became the Secretary of Commerce in 1968.

    [Title card: "Importance of working together"]

    [Lisa M. Blumerman, Associate Director for Decennial Census Programs at the Census Bureau]

    And I think that gets back to your question, which is one of allies. You need to develop the relationships both above, sideways, and below to help you throughout each and everything you choose to do. No one can do it alone. It's not all a team--it is all a team and it's not a team. We work in groups, we work together, we have our own pieces. But we do it in a supportive environment. And it's knowing and recognizing that as you make choices, you don't have to have all the answers, but you can go to someone with that question or you can bring someone into that project to help you. Or someone can give you their approval or their blessing to move that to the next step.

    [Title card: "An early interest in NIST's mission"]

    [Elizabeth F. Fong, Computer Scientists and Dean of Staff at NIST]

    When I grew up in China I went to the grocery store or the market with my mother. And my mother always carried a weight, the Chinese version, to measure so that the merchant who was selling her a

    vegetable wasn't cheating on her. This is true. And I came to NIST and I said "oh, this is the main mission that NIST does," and what in the computer area that I could make a measurement and so on.


    I hope you told your mother that she was an early precursor of NIST. [laughter]

    [Title card: "Finding strength in teams"]

    [Pamela K. Isom, Director of the USPTO's Office of Application Engineering and Development]

    Any advice to any leader or any aspiring leader, or even for those of us who are mentoring the ones that are growing up. That's one of the pieces of information I would impart, is it's about how we do things together. It really is. And if four or five people get together to solve a problem, the problem is more sustainable--the solution, I mean, is more sustainable. Because you've taken many different--it's been vetted. It's been vetted better. So--But when you're in college and things, it's about you. It's about your idea, your solution, right. So it changes, progressing over the years, and those experiences that go along with that have helped me a lot. And I think as me personally, that's what I look for when I'm looking at future leaders. If someone on my team--if I'm looking at someone on my team and saying they are a potential senior executive, it's because that's one of the things that I see. How they go about solving problems. How are they working with the people that work with them. How collectively and collaboratively they're able to get things done. That's just one piece of information.

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:

  1. Inflexible workplace policies create challenges for women with caregiver obligations in the federal workforce.
  2. Higher-level and management positions remain harder to obtain for women.
  3. Women are underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields in the federal workforce.
  4. Women and men do not earn the same average salary in the federal government.
  5. Unconscious gender biases and stereotypical perceptions about women still play an important role in employment decisions in the federal sector.
  6. 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.