Women’s History Month 2018: Women in Government
In honor of Women’s History Month, CAP is emphasizing the experiences and contributions of some of CAP’s female government staff members. In this interview, we spoke with Program Analyst Khera Colbert and Assessment Team Chief Sharon Terrell-Lindsay.
These two team members are great examples of the diversity of experiences that make the CAP team great. Colbert is early into her career and has 3 years and 7 months of experience with the federal government. However, Terrell-Lindsay has 41 years and 9 months with the Department of Defense, 23 years with the Defense Automated Printing Services, and 19 years with the Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP). This difference between lengths of government experience is an excellent opportunity to showcase the perspectives of two women who are each at very different points in their careers, yet working together toward the same mission.
What do you consider the most significant accomplishment of your career so far?
Colbert: My greatest accomplishment of my career so far has been obtaining my degree and being able to put it to use in the accommodations field.
Terrell-Lindsay: My most significant accomplishments were serving as Acting Director of CAP, and being recognized by Federal Computer Week in 2004 with a Federal 100 Award, which is given to the top 100 federal employees of the year. Knowing the founders of CAP and being a part of the disability community in general, having the ability to make a difference in people with disabilities’ lives, is an amazing accomplishment in itself.
What do you consider the biggest challenge for women in the work force today?
Colbert: I believe the biggest challenge in the workforce today as a woman is obtaining the respect and equal treatment that we deserve. Society has improved on equality but there is still room for improvement.
Terrell-Lindsay: I feel the biggest challenge for women is still getting past the "Good Ole Boy" network that is still running rampant in the federal government. Unfortunately, some men still think the woman's place is in the home and are intimidated by strong, knowledgeable women, so instead of helping to build them up, they choose to keep them in a lower position—in their place, so to speak.
Tell us about a woman who encouraged or empowered you to be where you are today.
Colbert: My previous internship mentor encouraged me to get to where I am today. She was in my shoes when she started in the government and has helped me every step of the way. Thanks to her and her team I was able to obtain a great opportunity to work where I am now.
Terrell-Lindsay: I would say the woman who encouraged me the most was Carolyn Terrell, my mother, who told me that if you work hard you will go far and get what you deserve, so never let anyone stand in your way. I also felt empowered by the first CAP Director, Ms. Dinah F.B. Cohen who never accepted no for an answer, made people listen when she spoke, and was an inspiration to me to become so passionate about the program and its purpose that has helped so many!
What advice would you give to young women starting their careers?
Colbert: Always take the opportunity to learn things in your organization that are outside of your job description. It goes a long way when you show interest that can help increase your knowledge and help your organization.
Terrell-Lindsay: Stay in school, and learn all you can regardless of the position you hold because you never know what job is waiting for you on the horizon. Stand up for what you believe in and never sell your soul to the devil to get ahead.
Why do you think female representation in the government is important?
Colbert: Since women do make up half the population, if not more than half, it only makes sense to have women in the government to showcase different experience and knowledge.
Terrell-Lindsay: Women hold the key to the success of the federal government because we have a voice that needs to be heard so we should have faith in it. Behind every successful man is an intelligent, positive woman who wants continuous process improvement regardless of the situation and will do everything she can to achieve stated goals.