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.
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.
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.
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.
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.