I am delighted to be posting a joint blog with Commissioner Ann Marie Buerkle as this year’s National Women’s History Month comes to a close. Commissioner Buerkle and I were confirmed together by the U.S. Senate in 2013 and are currently the only women CPSC Commissioners.
Since 1980, the United States has been celebrating women’s history during the month of March. In the last century women, fought for and won the right to vote as well as overcame significant legal, economic and social challenges within every corner of our culture. Today women are not only qualified for the same jobs and leadership positions as men, they are also expected to seek and hold the same jobs and positions as their male counterparts. This year we have had two women, one from each political party, running to be their party’s nominee for President of the United States. This is real progress!
This year’s theme for National Women’s History Month is “Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government.” Throughout this month, the CPSC’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and Minority Enterprise (EEO) has been sharing stories about prominent and successful women in the federal government from the CPSC, military, NASA and beyond. These success stories have inspired us and we thank Kathy Buttrey, Director of EEO, and her staff for their effort.
Last year, Commissioner Buerkle and I hosted an internal meeting with CPSC staff in honor of Women’s History Month. It was a conversation in which we discussed our life and career choices, our goals and associated challenges, and our very different paths to becoming Commissioners. We very much enjoyed preparing and hosting the event. We both believe that telling our stories is a great way to showcase the challenges of our generation and the many different pathways people may take to achieve great success. There is no direct route, and not one person, group or gender should ever hold a monopoly on success. We both love the Joseph Campbell quote: “If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s.”
Coincidentally, this year during Women’s History Month, we had the opportunity to speak on a two-person panel at the International Consumer Protection, Health and Safety Organization’s (ICPHSO) 2016 Annual Meeting. We both sincerely enjoyed preparing and participating in this panel entitled “Compliance & Enforcement or Compliance vs. Enforcement.” Both of us have very strong views, substantiated by data and experience, on the best ways forward to ensure the CPSC “keeps consumers safe.” Many times during our discussion we vehemently disagreed and other times we genuinely agreed, but our conversation was thoughtful, substantive and respectful. We have also been told by many attendees that it was educational, interesting, and inspiring. We were privileged to be able to have the discussion and answer questions from our stakeholders.
At ICPHSO, it was heartening to see the many women leaders in consumer product safety industry attending, networking and presenting throughout the week’s events. A quick review of the list of speakers shows that, of the approximately 130 speakers at ICPHSO, 67 of them were women and 31 of the 40 panels had at least one woman. At a time when there is much talk in the media about “all male panels,” it was encouraging that many of the ICPHSO panels had outstanding women presenters. In consumer product safety, as is true for all disciplines, it is critically important to have women on panels, in policy discussions and involved in decision making in order to get successful results.
In the spirit of celebrating women in the federal government, it was impressive to see both the CPSC’s Offices of Compliance and General Counsel so well represented by competent and articulate women. The CPSC’s Compliance team was represented by Carol Cave, Mary Toro, Tanya Topka, and Beverly Kohen, all who gave excellent presentations. The CPSC’s Office of General Counsel, headed by Stephanie Tsacoumis, with her team of fantastic women, Mary Murphy, Patti Pollitzer, Melissa Hampshire, gave one of the most well-attended and informative presentations. And Patricia Adkins, our Executive Director provided the opening remarks for CPSC Day. We were equally proud to have former Chairman Inez Tenenbaum and former Acting Chairman/Commissioner Nancy Nord attend ICPHSO this year. Senior and executive women leaders were at ICPHSO representing trade associations, consumer advocacy organizations, manufacturers, retailers and international government organizations.
Also, we would be remiss if we did not recognize that the incoming President of ICPHSO is Nancy Cowles. As many people know, she is a staunch consumer advocate and is currently Executive Director at Kids in Danger. We are excited that Nancy Cowles is taking the lead in planning the next ICPHSO and look forward to the intellect, energy and passion she brings to her profession and will bring to next year’s ICPHSO meetings.
We want to thank all the women, both in and outside of the CPSC, who work tirelessly to keep the American consumer safe. Their work, commitment and leadership in the product safety arena is part of a larger community of American women who are influencing policy, regulation, commerce, business, and families – and our collective history!
Thank you and Happy Women’s History Month 2016!