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TSA’s Collaborative ‘Why Not You’ Event Explores Diversity and Inclusion Topic

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TSA Pride Board Member and Supervisory Air Marshal in Charge Steven Petrick moderates the [email protected], [email protected] & TSA Pride Presents “Why Not You?” panel virtual forum. (Screenshot courtesy of SCPA)

For the first time in TSA history, three Employee Resource Groups – [email protected], [email protected] and TSA Pride – joined together to co-sponsor a TSA Pride specific “Why Not You” virtual panel discussion, featuring female leaders who are members of the LGBTQ+ community.

The four panelists included Law Enforcement/Federal Air Marshal Services Assistant Supervisory Air Marshal in Charge Alana Bell, Civil Rights & Liberties/Ombudsman and Travel Engagement Customer Service Branch Manager Nicole French, Transportation Security Operations Center Command Duty Officer Mary Rupert, and Lead Transportation Security Manager Carmen Shands. They are all proud members of the LGBTQ+ community, leaders in the workforce and open about being their authentic selves.

TSA Pride Board Member Steven Petrick served as the moderator for the virtual forum, with over 100 individuals participating. Key topics shared in the discussion included career journeys, diversity and inclusion, and available resources from the perspective of LGBTQ+ community members.

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Civil Rights & Liberties/Ombudsman and Travel Engagement Customer Service Branch Manager Nicole French, shares her journey of starting out as a part-time TSO 2007, to currently serving as the customer experience lead for TSA. (Screenshot courtesy of SCPA)

TSA Administrator David Pekoske, special guest and ally of the LGBTQ+ community, delivered opening remarks that shared updates about pay equity, open communication and the importance of transparency.

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Law Enforcement/Federal Air Marshal Services Assistant Supervisory Air Marshal in Charge Alana Bell discusses beginning her career as a Federal Air Marshal in the New York Field Office in 2006. (Screenshot courtesy of SCPA)

“I think that the core of a well-functioning organization is to be transparent internally with our employees, externally with our stakeholders and have good, open lines of communication,” said Pekoske. “I have deep respect for the expertise, the professionalism, the capability, and the perspectives that each and every one of our employees brings to the table.”

Stephanie Metzger, an out member of the LGBTQ+ community and host of the event, said, “The goal of today’s panel was to reinforce to the female workforce or to those that belong in marginalized communities that you should see yourself in these positions. We want to make sure that you know that you’re not defined by the color of your skin, how you identify and that your success or selection for leadership positions is attainable, no matter who you are or where you come from.”

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 TSOC Command Duty Officer Mary Rupert offers insight on how taking the opportunity to increase her skills from several different detail assignments helped her evolve from a part-time TSO in 2002 to her current role. (Screenshot courtesy of SCPA)

During the discussion, panelists encouraged anyone considering being their authentic self in the workplace to do so. They suggested if rumors circulate, the best practice is to not spread them. Panelists urged employees to network, consider working in different offices, and maximize detail opportunities as methods to help navigate their journey.

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Lead Transportation Security Manager Carmen Shands expresses her passion for developing leadership within the agency in addition to her experience as an Aspiring Leaders, Rising Leaders and Mid-Level Leadership Development Program mentor. (Screenshot courtesy of SCPA)

 “Employees have a safe space where they feel included, and are able to bring their whole selves to work,” Pekoske added. “Rest assured, you have my strong support in your effort to make us a more inclusive and a better, more diverse organization.”

By TeaNeisha Barker, TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs

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