By Philip Reed
“The Women of WAPA panel discussion started as a simple idea and just organically came together," said Equal Employment Manager Charles Montañez. “The OIED team has been collaborating and working with the LDP and we were looking for our first project together. As it turned out, the timing of this project was perfect."
Narrowing down the panelists was not easy.
“It didn't take long for us to realize how important this discussion was going to be and how inspired we were," he continued. “WAPA has many women as strong role models not only in leadership roles, but throughout the organization. Based on this, we also felt that it was extremely important that we had an all-woman moderation team interviewing our all-woman panel, highlighting this point."
The event was hosted by Equal Employment Specialist Peggy Wooten and moderated by Leadership Development Specialist Sarah P.
“Over the years, the federal government has designated seven special emphasis programs that are intended to assure full participation of underrepresented groups in the federal workforce," Wooten explained during the event. “We work toward this goal through workforce analysis, advice, education and outreach. Programs like this one are intended to help the audience by giving them some insight into the experience of the recognized group."
She then pointed out both that WAPA is fortunate to have women in key leadership roles and that they are still not equally represented.
“Women only represent 25% of the workforce at WAPA," she said. “Every employee, regardless of their identity, is valued at WAPA, but we can only compete for top talent if we continue to attract, hire and welcome qualified people, regardless of their identity. This is just one way we hope to engage WAPA's workforce in creating a diverse and inclusive organization."
The panelists were Engineering and Construction Manager Teresita Amaro, Administrative Officer Kayti Bashore and Public Utilities Specialist Padmini Palwe. Opening remarks were provided by Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Jennifer Rodgers.
“Women's History Month gives us an opportunity to reflect on the strength and resilience women have demonstrated since the start of time, and their amazing achievements in all areas contributing to making the world, our country and the workplace better," said Rodgers at the start of the event. “We have a tendency to focus on outstanding women in history who introduced historic change, the exceptional women who served as inspirations for current and future generations, like Marie Curie, Hedy Lamarr, Katherine Johnson and Serena Williams. Today I ask each of you instead to reflect on the women who have had a positive impact on your life. Relatives, coworkers, healthcare workers, friends and many others."
“Programs like panel discussions allow the participants to hear the experiences of their colleagues firsthand instead of listening or reading about the perspectives of consultants and trainers," said Montañez. “Storytelling is one of the most impactful ways to get a point across and gain the support of the audience."
For one hour, the panelists covered many topics, including their personal role models, what they'd tell themselves at age 25, advice for other women in the workplace, how to be more inclusive and supportive and even their own legacies.
According to Montañez, the event was a success, with much positive feedback from the attendees. He was impressed by the end result.
“I feel that these moderators and the panelists represented the strength and breadth of the women of WAPA so well," he said. “It is an important perspective and discussion for people to hear. I hope those who attended can appreciate that we all need to appreciate each other and our contributions."
He looks forward to supporting similar events in the future and hopes that WAPA employees will make time to tune in or watch the recordings later.
“These programs help ensure that WAPA takes affirmative steps to improve the employment and advancement opportunities of traditionally underrepresented minority groups and protects equal opportunity for minorities, women and people with disabilities in all areas of employment," he said. “These are designed to be educational and employment-related and serve as a way to provide cultural awareness to everyone."
Note: Reed is a public affairs specialist.