Kirk Hanlin, Assistant Chief of NRCS,
and Sharyn Alvarez, Former WiN President.
How WIN BeganIn 2008, I joined with the National Hispanic Emphasis Program Manager and held a joint SEPM training workshop for the FWPMs and the HEPMs at the annual National Organization of Professional Hispanic NRCS Employees (NOPHNRCSE). Why did I do this? FEW (Federally Employed Women) cut the training days for agencies from two days to one day. The Department of Agriculture FWPM would take the morning to host an FWPM event and that left me with the afternoon to provide training to their FWPMs.
The reduced time and the fact that the FEW registration fee could be from $800 - $1,000 provided me with the motivation to think differently on how to provide cost effective training to the FWPMs of NRCS. By 2008, budgets were beginning to become an issue and this solution worked. I networked with Gilbert Guerrero the National HEPM at the time, and we came up with a plan to form a workshop for both the FWPMs and the HEPMs.
Well, for the FWPMs this conference was the first time many of them had attended an NRCS Employee Organization Conference. The SEPM portion was held on Monday, and they were able to stay the rest of the week to experience the NOPHNRCSE Conference. The evaluations were great. Some FWPMs said, “Why don’t women have an employee organization?”
In 2009, the Asian/Pacific Island National SEPM, Angela Biggs, invited the FWPMs to host a joint conference with them and the NRCS Asian Pacific Island Organization. The FWPMs were also invited again to join the HEPMS. The FWPMs wanted to experience another NRCS Employee Organization so we accepted APIO’s invitation.
Half way through the APIO conference in Sacramento, California the FWPMs stated again, “Why don’t we have a women’s employee organization?” An impromptu meeting was held and the 22 women present agreed to begin planning the development of a NRCS Women’s Employee Organization.
Where We Are Now:
At this time, we have interim officers, by-laws, a website, a letter has been sent to the Chief and he has responded giving us his support. In early April, 2012, Ron Alvarado, the Acting Deputy Chief was briefed and provided with information to brief the Chief on our current status. We have Articles of Incorporation from the State of New York. We are in the process of applying for Non-Profit status. The other NRCS employee organization presidents are aware of the organization; we are part of the monthly meetings they hold. We have a Facebook account, a logo, a fact sheet and brochure. We have opened a bank account; we have begun to accept membership.
Our goal is to become an employee organization that is recognized by USDA as per Department Regulation 4020-251-01, Welfare and Recreation Organizations.To meet this requirement we need to do the following:
A. Be a non-profit organization whose membership is primarily made up of USDA employees;
B. Have a current constitution and by-laws that includes a non-discrimination statement;
C. Adhere to relevant law and regulations pertaining to use of government property, ethics and conduct;
D. Not discriminate in terms of membership or treatment of its members because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, familial status or because all or part of an individual’s income is derived from any public assistance program;
E. Not assist or participate in any strike, work stoppage or slowdown against the USDA, or advocate the overthrow of the constitutional form of government of the United States.
Questions and Answers:
From time to time throughout the establishment of WIN, we have received and answered questions. We created and posted a frequently asked question list on the website. Since we began accepting membership we received a question about our budget, how we plan to spend the dues we are collecting and our program agenda.
Currently we have an organizational budget that will focus on start-up expenses for our non-profit corporation, including the 501C3 filling fee ($850), website, bank account, postage, and membership cards costs. By September 1, 2012 we will be soliciting WIN National Council members, and anticipate a fully seated board in place by Jan. 2013. At that time, this fully seated board will approve its first organizational budget which will be dedicated to two pivotal organizational programs to further our mission and vision, 1. a scholarship program for WIN members and 2. training and development. There will also be organizational expenses such as website, bank, and postal fees.
WIN promotes the recruitment, retention, and leadership development of female employees, as well as, female participation in NRCS programs and services. Membership in the organization is open to all interested parties. Our mission is to provide women with training, opportunities and mentoring to develop into their fullest professional potential. We envision high performing, diverse, innovative, and motivated female employees who transform the workplace.
With the by-laws, we will achieve our vision by:
A. Advocating for a gender diverse workforce and leadership.
B. Identifying and resolving barriers to employment, leadership development, and retention of female employees.
C. Serving as a liaison to promote greater female participation in NRCS programs and services.
D. Shaping the future of natural resource management.
It is our hope that interested parties will feel encouraged to join and become an active and participating members of this organization.
WIN Core Team:
When we began 2 ½ years ago, 8 women committed to begin the work of establishing WIN. We worked together by phone, email, after hours and weekends throughout this whole process. The group brought a wide variety of experiences as they have been involved with other employee organizations and non-profit organizations. They have held office in these organizations and non-profits. They are full time NRCS employees from a diverse geographical area, job titles, ages and backgrounds. Five of the 8 still have children at home. We call ourselves the WIN Core Team. WIN core team are working with NRCS sister organizations on modeling its structure yet making WIN unique and tailored to women’s issues. Regardless of the time and effort it has taken to establish WIN the WIN core team has remained steadfast in its goal and I have never been prouder of a group of women. With their leadership I have much hope for the future of WIN.
Sharyn C. Alvarez
Former WiN President