FEW’s Cynthia Dunn: Why She Continues to Climb

Cynthia Dunn says she doesn’t drink coffee.

Yet, she works around the clock. And most of her time is spent helping other people.

She is the longest serving EEO/Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Director for the Internal Revenue Service. As part of her job, she delivers many presentations.

In recent years, however, educating the members of Federally Employed Women (FEW) has become one of her priorities.

Dunn has put her FEW membership to good use. She keeps her presentation skills sharp by using them repeatedly at FEW events. (She has delivered more than 30 FEW presentations since 2017.)

Her presentations also help her network, which allows her to maintain existing relationships and build new ones.

“I have a passion for helping people,” Dunn said. “Passion is fueling me. At the end of every presentation, the last slide has my contact information. If you have a question later, you can call me. I give them my direct number.”

Dunn’s presentations cover a wide range of topics, ranging from how to collaborate with other people and how to stand out in a crowd. She led five virtual courses at FEW’s 52nd Annual National Training Program, which included “Resilience in Times of Stress & Uncertainty” and “Creating Your Personal Brand and Soar to New Heights.”

“The classes were awesome,” said a federal employee after listening to Dunn’s “Providing Reasonable Accommodations for Qualified Individuals with Disabilities”presentation. “I’ve been in the government for almost 30 years, and I can honestly say that I learned more with you in three days than I have over the last 10 years on those three topics alone. Even if I thought I knew something you gave more clarity to the ‘gray’ areas. You did a marvelous job, and you should be proud. I really do hope the new leadership will let you continue to share your extensive knowledge with others in the federal government. It is necessary and truly appreciated. Oh, I forgot to mention the best part, you let us ask questions (no matter how silly we thought) and made us feel empowered to implement based on facts and laws. Not only am I implementing this week with my staff but I’m scheduling a meeting with my management to see if we (my department) can implement some ideas and tools that I picked up from your workshops. Keep up the good work!”

After attending Dunn’s “Promoting Your Professional Potential,” presentation, one federal employee pledged new resolve:This was by far the most rewarding class that I attended. I felt motivated, encouraged and ready to take a leap of faith. For the last few years in civil service, I have tried endlessly to grow within my career. People have tried to hinder my progress and I do not let that stop me. The booklet that was provided is sitting right here on my desk. It is being put to good use. Now is the time for me to go around those who have tried to hold me back. I am a mentee in need of a dynamic mentor. Thank you for all that you do!”

In addition to educating groups of federally employed women, Dunn continues to give back by offering to serve as a mentor—to more than 100 individuals in recent years. After answering questions from attendees, a portion asks her for one-on-one time. Typically, Dunn obliges.

FEW National President Karen Rainey has noticed.

“As an organization committed to education, training and ensuring equality for women and all federal employees, Cynthia has demonstrated that she embodies our purpose,” Rainey said about Dunn in a letter of support. “Cynthia has shown great leadership and strength in the pursuit for fairness for all. She is not afraid to share her knowledge or uplift others to ensure everyone’s voice is heard. Cynthia is a shining example of this organization’s mission. She has an unrelenting spark and I trust she will go far in representing women and improving the status of women in the government.”

Dunn doesn’t hesitate to share her experience with any one she counsels. One helpful insight about building a career: “Take the unwanted assignments,” she said, “the ones that people say, ‘That’s not my job.’ People will see that you are committed.”

Members of her audience have been known to go out of their way to sit in on her other classes to hear her again.

“Her style was so impressive that I skipped another class that I had signed up for in order to attend the ‘Prevention of Workplace Harassment’ workshop that she also taught,” said one attendee. “At the end of the day, I feel like I learned a lot, and I now have a better understanding of things that I thought I knew. It is safe to say that I’d definitely attend another class if she is the speaker. Great job!”

Without the help of caffeine, Dunn leverages feedback and her desire to give back as the needed fuel to sustain her efforts. She remembers how other women had helped throughout her career. “I love the satisfaction of people saying, ‘Because of you, I’m here now,’” she said.