A closer look at our National President, Pamela H. Richards
How does motherhood prepare a young recruit for service to the United States Government? How does serving in the military prepare a soldier for federal civilian service? As I sat down with FEW National President, Pamela H. Richards, several things became clear. Richards is a protector, a servant-leader, a loyal worker, and an inspiring role model. The knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) Richards acquired from her experiences as a mother and a soldier set the stage for her to shine as a domestic leader. Lean in, as we take a closer look at our National President.
Defying the odds and accepting the call of service
In her youth, Richards always dreamed of being a police officer and serving in the military. All of her uncles served in the military, and she wanted to follow in their footsteps. Enlisting in the United States Army offered her a “two-for-one” deal, when she became a military police officer.
As a young single mother in Roxboro, North Carolina, Richards knew the military would provide a secure and abundant life for her and her son, who was three years old when she entered boot camp. She was familiar with Census Bureau statistics painting a grim outlook for single-parent households, many of which lived in poverty. She was also determined to challenge and disprove the myth that African American boys raised by single mothers inevitably become juvenile delinquents by the age of 16.
While her vision and path were clear, Richards cites leaving her son to enter basic training as one of the hardest decisions she has ever made. She resolved to trust her “village” in taking care of Jonathan, whom she did not see for 13 weeks while she completed basic training. Torn between competing desires of wanting to be present in her son’s life yet wanting to give him better opportunities, she moved forward, first to Alabama and then to Texas. After completing basic training, reuniting with her son, and permanently relocating to San Antonio, Richards paved the way for her son to travel the world and have thrilling experiences to share in school. The proud mom shares, “Jonathan has more stamps in his passport than I do.” Jonathan is now the innovative owner of a successful film production company.
KSAs acquired: grit, determination, resilience, servant leadership, the art of sacrifice, boldness, making difficult judgment calls, and an ability to defy the odds.
Building strong networks
As a young soldier, Richards spent time in Europe, where she was forced to build a new circle of emotional and spiritual support. Her fondest memories include the network of strong women who served as role models. These warrior women encouraged Richards to persevere in college classes while in the military, never giving up on herself or her dreams, and always remembering her son as the reason why she needed to excel. Richards resolved to give her son a life beyond his “wildest dreams” and a standard of living to surpass. Though she was deployed for a year without him, she made wonderful friends and connections.
These networks also helped to weather the biggest challenge Richards faced in the military: repeatedly having to prove herself and her worth. She was one of only a few women in her platoon, which was consistent with the number of women throughout the Army at that time. In the male-dominated scene, Richards found solace and inspiration in these rare female friendships. Her positive attitude and willingness to take on duties that others were less willing to do led to opportunities to protect her platoon from physical danger. How interesting the Army selected a mother, whose primal response to threats was protecting those in her circle of care. Richards proved she was a loyal soldier entrusted to protect her platoon.
KSAs acquired: networking, empathy, loyalty, teambuilding, perseverance, positive attitude, trust, physical security, and leading with love
From Secretary to Manager in Civilian Federal Work
President Richards and FEW Vice President for Policy and Planning, Carla Hamilton, are alike in their ability to skip several General Schedule (GS) levels in their federal careers. Richards masterfully rose from a GS 5 to a GS 9 level as she transitioned from an entry-level secretary position to accepting the role of an Inspector General. She credits this climb to the criminal justice classes she took prior to applying for the job.
How did Richards move into management with “no prior experience”? As she continued to climb the ranks of civilian service, Richards discovered Federally Employed Women (FEW). She joined FEW and quickly became involved in leadership with the Federal Triangle Chapter in Washington, D.C. After fulfilling the role of Chapter President and grooming her successor, Richards ascended to lead as Regional Manager for FEW’s DC Metro Region. During her government management interview, Richards shared her experiences of leading 26 chapters in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico with over 900 members and a fiscally sound budget. Richards remembers the strong female networks she experienced in the military and continues to pay it forward through her leadership with FEW. As a Supervisory Investigative Research Analyst, she empowers and coaches her employees, encouraging them as she has been encouraged along the way.
KSAs acquired: kindness, generosity, humility, recruitment, teambuilding, leadership, management, coaching, mentoring, organizational savvy
Madame President, thank you for your service!
~ Communications Chair, Ivana Miranda