• Entrepreneur of the Month

The Powerhouse Behind Executive Women in Government

COVER STORY MARCH 2013: EXECUTIVE WOMEN IN GOVERNMENT

By Hope Katz Gibbs
Publisher, Be Inkandescent

What does it take to rise to the top ranks in government? That’s the question we asked Executive Women in Government VP Shoshana Grove.

The federal executive began her career as a letter carrier for the US Postal Service in Washington, DC, and worked her way up through the ranks to her current position as head of the Office of Secretary & Administration for the Postal Regulatory Commission.

She is responsible for maintaining the records of the Commission, preserving Commission documents, managing the Commission’s library and docket room, and managing HR, among other responsibilities. She also represents the Commission on the Federal CIO Council and Small Agency Council.

For our Tips column this month, we also looped in the organization’s president, Reta Jo Lewis. Click here for her insights into rising to the top.

But first, we sat down with Grove to discuss her career, her perspective on where women have come from—and where they are going—and what role Executive Women in Government will be playing in the years to come.

Scroll down for our Q&A, below.

Click here to listen to our podcast interview on the Inkandescent Radio Network.


Be Inkandescent: Let’s start by talking about Executive Women in Government. Tell us about the organization, who its members are, and what its mission is.

Shoshana Grove: Executive Women in Government (EWG) was founded in 1974 and is an organization of senior women executives who serve in the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the federal government.

The organization advocates for the advancement of women in senior leadership positions in the federal government and provides members an opportunity to become better acquainted with other senior government and corporate women through collective action in public service.

A primary mission is to improve the status of women in the federal government. Currently, only 30 percent of Senior Executive Service jobs are held by women, even though women make up 50 percent of the federal workforce. Only 19 percent of the 535 people in Congress are women, though that is an improvement over 17 percent in the previous Congress. EWG is also committed to seeing more women on corporate boards.

Be Inkandescent: Do you work at all with the private sector?

Shoshana Grove: Most definitely. Senior government executives are a candidate pool for top corporate jobs, and government is recruiting senior private-sector executives. EWG works closely with top private-sector women executives, and together we form cooperative relationships to effect change.

But consider this statistic: In 2011, women occupied just 16.6 percent of Fortune 500 board seats, according to the 2012 Catalyst Census — even though the data show that companies with the highest average percentage of women directors outperformed companies in the bottom quartile by 26 percent, measured by return on invested capital. So there is plenty of room for us to grow.

Be Inkandescent: How did you get involved with EWG?

Shoshana Grove: The way many great opportunities arise—through volunteerism. A few years ago, a fellow executive who knew about my work with Women in Logistics and Delivery Services asked me to be a mentor as part of the EWG Mentor/Protégé Program. I became an active participant, and this past year the nominating committee reached out to me to run for vice president of the organization.

Be Inkandescent: You are active in Women in Logistics and Delivery Services (WILDS). Tell us more about this initiative.

Shoshana Grove: I first heard about WILDS by word of mouth while attending the National Postal Forum several years ago. At that time it was a rather rogue women’s networking group. I subsequently joined the organization and volunteered my time. I wrote an article on the group for a national trade magazine, organized events ranging from social networking happy hours to speaking events with top industry and congressional decision-makers, and I became active in the WILDS mentoring program.

I was assigned a wonderful mentor, one of the top women in the Postal Service, and met other powerful industry women who have helped me in my career. More importantly, these women have been the foundation of a supportive friendship circle that enriches my life and my work in uncountable ways. Today WILDS has grown in size, but is still a grassroots, all-volunteer organization promoting women’s leadership in the postal and delivery industries. Our programming is providing thought leadership in the delivery and logistics industries, and that provides a catalyst for positive change.

Be Inkandescent: What accomplishments have you made in improving the role of blue-collar women in government?

Shoshana Grove: The U.S. Department of Transportation Task Force on Women in Blue Collar Careers is focused on creating opportunities through outreach and awareness about blue-collar careers—including education, awareness, and removing barriers to entry. Blue-collar jobs often pay better than the minimum-wage jobs that many young woman and working mothers perform, but the barriers to entering these jobs are daunting for many women. They include difficult work culture, and lack of basic skills and information about opportunities.

As someone who started my career in a blue-collar job, I understand both the challenges and rewards of this type of work. Many of our WILDS members are leaders in companies with a large blue-collar workforce, and EWG is interested in positive change for women at every level of their careers. My hope is that the Task Force will bring additional resources to this important effort.

Be Inkandescent: Let’s talk about your work with the Postal Service. You started as a letter carrier. Was that when you were in college at GW University in DC?

Shoshana Grove: I first started as a letter carrier at the Postal Service as a summer job while in college. At that time, being a letter carrier was a very nontraditional job for women. I was one of only two women starting out at an all-male carrier unit in DC.

It was very challenging physically, mentally, and psychologically, and I enjoyed that. After college and a brief stint on Capitol Hill, I went back into the Postal Service thinking that my background would enable me to quickly move up into a managerial and ultimately corporate headquarters role. I didn’t realize at the time that it would take me more than 25 years to get to headquarters.

In those 25 years, I had many firsts in the large postal administrations where I worked: first woman supervisor, first woman station manager, and ultimately one of the first women big-city postmasters. By then, other women were entering the field and working their way up in the delivery services ranks, and we provided an informal support network for each other.

One of my prime motivators was to ensure that all workers, not just women, had a professional workplace and equal opportunity for advancement. I became very active in my district with training, development, and mentoring aimed at improving diversity among postal management. I also held leadership positions with the National Association of Postmasters of the United States and was a vocal advocate for postmasters.

Be Inkandescent: The reason we had the opportunity to meet you is thanks to an interview I did with your mother, author and GW English professor Faye Moskowitz, who hosts the popular class, Jewish Literature Live. How has she impacted your life?

Shoshana Grove: My mom is the busiest, most productive woman I know, and indeed, the more she does, the more it seems she can do. Typical of her generation, my mom married young and did not have a paid job outside the home while I was growing up in Detroit. Even so, she worked every day for the local Democratic Party. Our family came to DC when my dad got a job on Capitol Hill—a job he attributes to my mom’s efforts.

She didn’t go to college and finish her degree until she was almost 40, and since then her career has been on an upward trajectory that has not slowed down. Mom is not only a full-time professor and former department chair at GW; she is an acclaimed author and speaker, the Poetry Editor for Moment Magazine, and on GW’s Tenure and Promotions Committee.

Her huge home is always immaculate, she walks with her friendship group every day, she does water aerobics, is socially and culturally active, and she still puts dinner on the table for my dad, her biggest fan, every night, even though he is an avowed feminist. I’m still striving to accomplish half of what my mom can get done in a day.

Be Inkandescent: Tell us more about your perspective on Women in Power. Since you first became a professional, do you think women have made strides?

Shoshana Grove: No doubt women have made strides in the workplace during my career, as have minorities, but there is obviously still work to do. Look at the numbers. Subtle and overt discrimination still exists in the workplace at every level. One of the first bills President Obama signed into law during his first term was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, addressing an issue that is still prevalent in the workplace.

Be Inkandescent: What are you looking forward to in the future—in terms of the growth of women in the workforce, and also personally.

Shoshana Grove: I have great hopes for the achievements of this next generation. I love this quote from Morley Winograd and Michael Hais, authors of Millennial Momentum, who also have been Be Inkandescent magazine columnists. Here’s to the future!

“Millennials have overwhelmingly turned their backs on conventional notions about the place of women in society, making their generation the most gender-neutral, if not female-driven, in U.S. history.”

Don’t stop now! Click here to read Shoshana Grove’s 10 tips for women who want to land top jobs and be successful executives in government in our column, Tips for Entrepreneurs.

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