RICHMOND, Va. –
Across the Defense Contract Management Agency, women only make up 12% of the quality assurance workforce.
Agency leaders hope to increase the amount of females entering into the career field as well as retain those who are already quality assurance specialists. The Technical Directorate and Human Capital hosted a QA women’s symposium July 17-18 at an offsite near Fort Lee, Virginia. This is the first symposium held for women in the job series.
Twenty-four female employees from across the agency, including all of the regions and Special Programs, attended the forum to discuss ways to recruit women, employ, develop their skills and retain them.
The employees were broken up into groups based on those four categories and briefed Michael Shields, DCMA’s executive director of Quality Assurance. In addition, other senior leaders spoke to the group, including John Lyle, DCMA deputy director; Kathy Butera, executive director of Human Capital; and George Braxton, the agency’s Equal Employment Office deputy director.
“The teams identified areas where we may have blind spots,” said Clay Brashear, the director of the Diversity, Inclusion and Recruitment Office in Human Capital.
“Since women in quality assurance only make up about 12% of the field, we want to increase that number and help those already in the career field to continue to be successful and thrive within the agency,” he added. “We want to create an environment in which people want to stay because our employees bring a unique skill set to their jobs.”
According to Shields, the quality assurance career field has changed and the position requires employees to now focus more on data collection and analysis as well have the communication skills to work well and collaborate with customers and contractors.
“We hope these new competencies will attract a wider group of women to apply for positions and stay at DCMA,” said Shields. “No longer is the majority of the job going to require extensive inspections. The job is changing to ensure the contractor is conducting creditable inspections and tests to support product acceptance.”
Brashear and his team worked with the Technical Directorate for several months to plan the event as a way for employees to share some of the reasons why there is a low percentage of women working in quality assurance.
During the symposium, the employees noted there were few female mentors, which may prevent women from entering the career field. DCMA Atlanta has a NexTier leadership program with a mentoring component that employees discussed whether other contract management offices could implement similar initiatives to make sure women succeed in quality assurance.
Rita Evans has been with the agency and its predecessor for 40 years, and she offered feedback to agency leaders.
“I have stayed with the agency because of its mission, career mobility and job security,” said Evans, who is a QAS based in Arlington Heights, Illinois, and works for the Central Region. “We have to continue to identify ways such as better mentoring to encourage women who work in quality assurance to stay because a lot of them leave at a certain point to become industrial specialists or take other roles within the agency.”
The attendees said the benefits of working for DCMA includes providing support to warfighters, tuition assistance, flexible work schedule and developmental opportunities. The employees highlighted the benefits of participating in the Keystone program, and encouraged leaders to think about expanding more leadership programs for those in lower GS grades versus waiting for employees to reach the GS-12 or GS-13 level.
“I encourage employees to take advantage of the opportunities at DCMA,” said Christina Young, a QAS based in Lake Charles, Louisiana, who is a part of the DCMA Aircraft Integrated Maintenance Operations team located in Melbourne, Florida. “We have a good work and life balance and there are plenty of travel opportunities. DCMA is everywhere. Being a QAS is a very rewarding job, and I take pride and ownership in what I do to support the warfighter.”
During the symposium, Braxton answered EEO-related questions and shared policy insight. The agency plans to conduct a barrier analysis later this year for certain job series, including quality assurance, which will identify ways that may prevent people from working or staying employed at DCMA.
“The agency is fortunate to have talented employees and applicants, but until we have in place the proper mentoring and networking opportunities for women, retention issues will remain,” he said. “We also have to make it a safe environment where, if there are issues, people can speak up without the fear of reprisal.”
Some of the takeaways for agency leadership included reevaluating the marketing strategy to include more female employees attending recruiting events. Tammy Queen, the agency’s Central Region recruiter, and her colleagues partner with the CMOs throughout the year near a recruiting event to make sure DCMA employees attend.
“We encourage female employees to attend recruiting events because we want to ensure our subject matter experts represent our targeted audiences,” said Queen. “We want them to tell others about DCMA’s mission and why this is a good place to work.”
Leaders were also asked to reevaluate the forecasting demand for certain classes, especially when it relates to certification, to make sure employees can take the classes when they need them and make sure the instructions for applying for career developmental opportunities are clear and concise.
In addition, the group asked leaders to ensure that hiring practices are fair and evaluate certain incentives, such as relocation bonuses and student loan repayment plans, to encourage prospective employees to join the agency.
“The symposium provided a safe place where women could share ideas openly without being judged and without worrying about repercussions,” said Young, who has been with the agency for 15 years.
Shields thanked the employees for sharing their feedback.
“We’re stronger with diversity,” he said. “It’s important to get the right mix of diversity and we need all of you to help us fill the pipeline with qualified candidates who want to work at DCMA and support our warfighters.”