Women’s History Month: Representation in Corrections

Officer at Airway Heights Corrections Center

Women have historically been underrepresented in law enforcement careers. The Washington State Department of Corrections’ communications team recently did an analysis of how many of its employees are women (39.5%) and interviewed two women who have worked in corrections for more than 20 years about the challenges they’ve faced on the job and advantages women can bring to law enforcement careers.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on the Washington State Department of Corrections’ website.

By Rachel Friederich (email)

DOC Communications

March is Women’s History Month. Since 1995, United States presidents have issued annual proclamations for this month, to celebrate contributions women have made in American history and recognizing their achievements.

Women have had an important impact in shaping Washington state’s correctional system, even though the field of corrections is a heavily male-dominated career field.


A total of 346,000 people in America worked as correctional officers in 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only 31.7% of those jobs were held by women. And only 27.7% of about 5,100 first line supervisors of correctional officers in the US were held by women.

By comparison, the Washington State Department of Corrections employs 4,471 corrections and community corrections officers. Of those, 23.1% are female. As of Feb. 15, 2021, the Department of Corrections employed 683 people who were supervisors of correctional officers (this includes officers not working in prison settings). Of those, 152 (22.2%) were female.

Agency-wide, women make up 39.5% of Washington Corrections employees.

Women’s Historical Influence on Washington Corrections

One woman whose influence is widely-known in Washington Corrections was Edna Lucille Goodrich. Goodrich began her career as a teacher and became was the first superintendent of the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor. Goodrich was recognized as a national leader in corrections. The Department of Corrections’ Headquarters building in Tumwater is named after her.

The agency also continues to be a leader for gender-responsive programming for incarcerated women. It’s one of only 12 correctional systems in the country with a residential parenting program (pdf). The agency incorporates gender-response protocols in every aspect of its correctional practices, from intake to shaping its programs around substance abuse and mental health treatment. And last year, its community corrections division launched virtual gender-responsive health and wellness reentry courses for work release residents.

Challenges Women Face

Women can face many challenges in the field of corrections, according to a 2017 report by the Management Training Corporation, Women Professionals in Corrections: A Growing Asset (pdf). The report said even after achieving a position in senior leadership, women reported feeling like they have to perform at a higher level than male peers to be viewed as successful.

Despite the challenge’s women face, the report pointed to ways managers can support women and change work culture to support a more diverse workforce, such as training on equity and inclusion. It also said that having more women in leadership roles and having mentoring programs in place, will help make corrections a more inclusive work environment.

“The enlightenment of female leaders within the corrections environment and how male staff are coached and encouraged, with respect to women in their workforce, can lead to changes in attitude, thinking processes and behaviors,” according to the report. “Creating an environment where it is acceptable to be different, speak your mind and to have your opinions listened to is a tremendous step forward in some organizations management philosophy and organizational culture. Many corrections professionals acknowledge that there are strong people out there, both men and women, who are going to succeed regardless of the circumstances. However, in the corrections environment, with the attributes that women bring, specifically collaboration, communication, and empathy, women have not been traditionally valued.”

The Interviews

To celebrate Women’s History Month and recognize the valuable skills women bring to the Washington State Department of Corrections, DOC Communications interviewed a correctional captain and a community corrections supervisor about overcoming gender disparities and lessons learned as they progressed throughout their careers.

Name: Arminda Miller

Current Job and Facility/Worksite: Correctional Captain at Washington Corrections Center, Currently Deployed to Department’s Emergency Operations Center serving as a liaison officer

Employed with DOC Since: 1998

Name: Stacy Fitzgerald

Employed with DOC Since: 1999

Current Job and Facility/Worksite: Community Corrections Supervisor, Ratcliff House Work Release

Employed With DOC Since: 1998

What positions or special teams have you had or served on in Washington State Department of Corrections?

Arminda Miller: Correctional Officer, Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, Training and Development Instructor and Writer. Special Teams 1999-Current. (Emergency Response Team, Critical Incident Stress Management, Honor Guard, Department Incident Management Team. Not all at the same time but on a team for the entire duration)

Stacy Fitzgerald: Fugitive Warrants Unit (interned), Community Corrections Officer, Risk Management Specialist, Work/Training Release Supervisor

What made you choose corrections as a career?

Arminda Miller: I wanted to work in a field that allowed many options to help others and learn throughout the career. The Washington State Department of Corrections offers different opportunities on a regular basis.

Stacy Fitzgerald: Looking back I realize I became interested in human behavior when I was young. I wondered why people would continue to make decisions that would continuously get themselves into trouble or why people would choose not to tell the truth over and over again.

When I got older, I thought I wanted to become a police officer until I was in college. One of my professors was a retired probation officer with the Department of Corrections. I was near graduation and needed an internship, so he was able to assist me in securing an internship with the DOC fugitive warrants unit. Working in this capacity, I learned the roles correctional staff play in community corrections, which are law enforcement and social worker.

I realized I could learn more about an individual’s behavior in community corrections than any other field because a community corrections officer gets to know the person’s behavior that sent them to jail/prison, and who they are when released.

I stayed in the field because over the years I learned the deeper reasoning behind poor decision-making turned criminal behavior and how so many environmental factors play a role in one’s life. It wasn’t until I was 10 years into my career and working at an all-female Work Release that I became passionate about incarcerated women’s issues and the importance of gender response in the correctional setting.

Have you encountered any gender-based micro-aggressions or discriminations in your career, and how have you overcome them?

Arminda Miller: Sure I have. I don’t much have an issue confronting these things as they arise and confronting them doesn’t have to be confrontational. Ignoring these things typically doesn’t result in them stopping.

Stacy Fitzgerald: Yes, but I’ve never let it define me or my path. I’ve been fortunate in that, for the most part I’ve been surrounded by great co-workers throughout my career.

What do you enjoy most about working in corrections?

Arminda Miller: There is always something to do and its meaningful work. There are also a lot of really great people who work in this agency. This work is never boring to me.

Stacy Fitzgerald: I enjoy working with the women because I know they need strong supporters for their rights and needs. I’m proud to work in the Reentry Division at a work release that teaches women how to be prosocial individuals in the community.

I’ve always enjoyed this work. Right now though, I also really enjoy the people I work with; the team work and comradery, that comes with the job we do. We are all in it for the same reasons and that is to help these women be successful in the community.

What advice do you have for women who may be interested in a career in corrections?

Arminda Miller: Focus your energy around your work performance, this will garner credibility and respect. One may be able to charm themselves into a place but that falls short in time, it’s the performance that keeps them there or causes them to be invited back.

Stacy Fitzgerald: I encourage women to follow a career path in corrections. There are many opportunities depending on one’s interest. Corrections needs women who have healthy boundaries, capable of empathy, understand punishment and more importantly behavior. I have found DOC to be a very equal opportunity employer which is great for females interested in a correctional career.

Corrections, as is with many law enforcement fields, have historically been male dominated industries. What advantages do women bring to corrections?

Arminda Miller: Without being overly gender specific, healthy interactions for some of the people who we are responsible for are needed. We get an opportunity to display what that looks like and potentially allow others to see that healthy relationships include boundaries. Someone once shared with me that we have an opportunity to shape our neighbors, as most incarcerated will release, what kind of neighbor are you trying to shape?

Stacy Fitzgerald: Women tend to bring different viewpoints to corrections. Diversity is important anywhere, but particularly in corrections because in corrections it’s important to keep an open mind no matter what your role is or who you are working with, whether they’re male, female, or LGBTQ+.

Washington State Women’s Commission Inspiring Women Leaders Virtual Event March 18

Inspiring Women Lead!

Virtual Women’s History Month Event to Celebrate Black Women in Washington’s Legislature

Panelists Senator T'wina Nobles, Representative April Berg, Representative Debra Entenman, Representative Jamila Taylor, Women's Commission Chair Michelle Merriweather

The Washington State Women’s Commission is proud to host a panel celebrating an inspiring group of Black women serving in the Washington State Legislature. Join us for the opportunity to hear each legislator’s personal leadership journey, current legislative priorities, and inspirations messages for the women and girls of Washington.Event date: March 18, 2021 – 6:30pm to 7:30pmAddress: 

The meeting will be held remotely via Zoom video conference call. A dial-in option will also be available for those who are unable to access the meeting electronically. See below for Zoom link and dial-in information.

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 850 4470 2346
Passcode: 765325
One tap mobile
+12532158782,,85044702346#,,,,*765325# US (Tacoma)
+16699006833,,85044702346#,,,,*765325# US (San Jose)

Dial by your location
        +1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
        +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
        +1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)
        +1 408 638 0968 US (San Jose)
        +1 646 876 9923 US (New York)
        +1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC)
        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
Meeting ID: 850 4470 2346
Passcode: 765325
Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/keasTRSIhDContact Info: 

Kate Sowers | Program Coordinator | kate.sowers@wswc.wa.gov

Commentary: Celebrating Women’s History Month

by Rachel Friederich, ICSEW Communications Chair

ICSEW members standing at the Washington State Capitol in 2019

March is Women’s History Month.  Since 1995, US presidents have issued annual proclamations for this month, to celebrate contributions women have made in American history and recognize their achievements.

As tumultuous as the past year has been, women—in state and national government have made history.

Nationally, we saw the first woman of color become vice president– the second-highest government office in the land.

In Washington state, our Supreme Court became one of the most diverse in the nation, with the appointments of Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis as first Native woman and Helen Whitener was the first Black woman to sit on the state’s highest court. Women have more representation in our legislature. T’wina Nobles was the first Black senator elected in Washington for more than a decade—and only the second black woman to serve in the chamber. The House also gained three new Black women: Jamila Taylor, April Berd and Kirsten Harris-Talley. (Read about them on CrossCut.) Voters also chose Marilyn Strickland as its first Black member of Congress. In another first, Laurie Jinkins became the state’s first woman and out lesbian Speaker of the House.

ICSEW Making History

The Interagency Committee of State Employed Women has made history, too. This March has marked one year since we began holding our meetings and events exclusively online. We’ve stepped up to master tools like Zoom and Facebook Live. Many of us learned new skills outside of our comfort zones. We will continue our virtual interactions with our membership—at least for the immediate future.

Though conducting business online threw us a learning curve, we’ve adapted. And the virtual world has a silver lining. Since we’ve started streaming our meetings and archiving our videos, they’ve gotten thousands of views—way more than any number of people who have attended our meetings in person. It’s given state employees who don’t work in the greater Olympia area—and may not have had the opportunity engage with ICSEW—access they likely never had before. No other time in our 58-year history has attending our meetings been so easy.

Even when we eventually start meeting again face-to-face, we will continue streaming our meetings and many of our trainings online.

ICSEW also launched its first-ever mentorship pilot program for ICSEW representatives. The pilot had about 40 participants from various state agencies. The project is coming to a close, but we’re actively working with partners and taking steps to make the pilot available for all state employees. We’ll be providing updates on our progress at future meetings and on our blog.

Making My Own History

Women’s History Month is also important to me.  As a daughter of Filipino immigrants, there were lots of things my mother wasn’t allowed to do after arriving to the US after escaping a country that was on the verge of martial law in the early 1970s.

I am the first woman in my family to have certain rights and opportunities that my mother didn’t have. (Read: Nine things Women Couldn’t Do in 1971)

When my mother immigrated to the US, women weren’t allowed to keep their maiden names after marriage. (This did not occur until 1976). Women weren’t allowed to have their own bank accounts (This also did not occur until 1976.) In the early 70s women couldn’t get credit cards in their own names nor serve on a jury or attend an Ivy League school.

I couldn’t afford to attend an Ivy League, but I did attend a state college and was the first person in my family to graduate from a university and go on to a professional career.

Though we’ve made a lot of progress in achieving gender equality, we’re not there yet. Women are still underrepresented many lines of work, but especially in STEM fields and law enforcement. Men still outnumber women in Congress and there are still elected officials trying to legislate women’s rights to their own bodies.

There’s still a lack of women in senior leadership positions in the business world.  And in our nation’s 200+ year history, we have yet to close the gender wage gap.  The Center for American Progress lists the US gender wage gap at 82 percent (meaning women earned 82 cents to every $1 their male counterparts earn, as of 2019). However, in our state, the gender wage gap has actually widened. Recent numbers from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, as reported by KING 5 shows that women in our state earned 81 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earned in 2014, but the number fell to 75.4 by 2019.

One of the reasons I decided to join ICSEW was for the opportunity for leadership, personal and career development trainings and to be around other strong, female professionals who were very few and far between when I was growing up. It’s given me the confidence to talk to supervisors about opportunities to advance in my career. (something I had never been taught to do) The trainings ICSEW offers have taught me to spot systemic issues that play into gender inequalities, like implicit biases and micro-aggressions. And how to advocate to put a stop these issues.


As we ease into Women’s History Month, I invite you take a look at some resources about Women’s History in the State of Washington and civic involvement.

  • Washington State Historical Society’s page on the 100th anniversary of the women’s suffrage movement. Though the centennial was last year, and all of its in-person events were cancelled, the site has virtual exhibitions, curricula, and links to videos.
  • Washington State Women’s Commission: Its mission is to improve the life of every woman by ensuring equitable opportunities and removing systemic barriers through engagement, advocacy, public policy, while being inclusive of diverse populations. The organization has many events, and which can be attend virtually on women’s issues.
  • ICSEW’s About page gives a brief history of how the ICSEW evolved from a response to President Kennedy’s National Commission on the status of Women and its work we continue today.

I’d also invite you to attend our next meeting on March 16 to learn about what ICSEW does and to be a part of our mission of bettering the lives of all state employees through advocacy, outreach and opportunity, by advising the Governor on issues that impact state employed women. I emphasize all state employees, because issue that impact the ability of women to thrive in the workplace, will impact everyone’s ability to thrive.

It’s certainly impacted mine.

Women’s History Month: How State Employed Women Have Impacted Our State’s History

womens history month

By Amal Joury, ICSEW Chair

As Women’s History Month comes to a close, I want to encourage you to reflect on the work  the newly-formed Blacks United In Leadership and Diversity (BUILD) business resource group ICSEW does and continues to do.

Since before Washington gained its statehood from a territory in 1889 to now—women have been making an impact in government and laws regarding gender equity in all aspects of society. ICSEW is no exception.

Women’s History Month began as a celebration of Women’s History Week, the week of March 8th. In 1987, Congress passed a law designating March as Women’s History Month.

This year marks the centennial of the 19th amendment, which legalized the right to vote for United States citizens regardless of gender. Thus, the national theme for this year’s Women’s History Month, set by the National Alliance for Women’s History, is “Valiant Women of the Vote”. After decades of lobbying and fighting for women suffrage, women secured the right to vote on August 18, 1920 when the 19th amendment was ratified in the United States.

The fight for suffrage would not have been successful without women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B Anthony, Sojourner Truth and numerous lesser known women, like Harriet Forten Purvis, Mabel Ping-Hua Lee, Adelina “Nina” Otero-Warren, Zitkála-Šá, and more. Visit the Exhibit at the Library of Congress to learn more about the long battle women waged to secure the right to vote.

(Editor’s Note: The Washington State Historical Society, is hosting programs in communities throughout the state this year to commemorate the centennial of women’s suffrage, and has several free online exhibits and curricula, and offers some ways you can get involved. Visit https://www.suffrage100wa.com/ for more information.)

As part of the continued legacy of women fighting for their right to vote, and for equal participation in all facets of life, Washington’s former governor, Albert Rosellini, created the first iteration of the Interagency Committee of State Employed Women, ICSEW, in 1963 in response to President Kennedy’s Commission on the Status of Women.  This national commission was established to investigate questions regarding women’s equality in education, the workplace and under the law.

Washington state’s subsequent governors continued this work.  ICSEW expanded to include representation from educational institutes and the judicial system in Washington. In 2006, ICSEW was opened to representation from all state agencies and institutes of higher education.

Most recently, Gov. Jay Inslee reaffirmed ICSEW via Executive Order 16-04 – committing his administration’s support to improving the lives of state employed women.

Part of ICSEW’s mission is examining and defining issues that pertain to the rights and needs of women employed in state government and to make policy recommendations to the governor and state agencies with respect to desirable changes in programs, polices, and laws especially in the area of education, training, career development and other conditions of employment.

ICSEW is also given the authority to advise state agencies on the development and implementation of comprehensive and coordinated policies, plans and programs focusing on the special issues and needs of women in state government.

Please join BUILD and ICSEW in celebrating Women’s History Month by taking time to learn and reflect on our collective national past, honor the sacrifices made by the scores of women before us, celebrate their hard won successes, and create visibility around the gaps that remain. There is still a lot of work to be done to bring us all closer to equality.

For a comprehensive look at ICSEW history, visit our About page.

To subscribe to BUILD’s mailing list, click here: Join our Mailing List

Megan Matthews, BUILD chair also contributed to this article.


March 2019 Meeting Recap

The Interagency Committee of State Employed Women, ICSEW, had another successful meeting March 26 full of informative presentations and interactive training. Below is a recap of the guest presentations. Note: Meeting minutes and training session handouts are available on our Meting Minutes page.

Women holding a book in front of a podium
Amy Leneker (far left) coaches a couple of meeting attendees during her Clifton Strengths seminar.

Amy Leneker

Amy Leneker gave an interactive training on identifying and maximizing one’s Clifton Strengths.

Clifton Strengths are named after Dr. Don Clifton, former chairman of The Gallup Organization. Gallup conducted several years of research on personality types. The research suggested people who best understand their strengths and behaviors will be best-equipped to deploy those strengths in their personal and professional lives.

Leneker showed meeting attendees how to find their top five strengths. She taught attendees how to best use those strengths, and recognize when those strengths become weaknesses. She did a couple of individual coaching sessions. Workshop attendees also got to team up with partners for an exercise that allowed attendees to brainstorm ways to combine different strengths.

Women writing in workbooks at a table
ICSEW reps, alternates and guests fill in responses in their Clifton Strengths workbook during a professional development training.

For more information on Clifton strengths or to take the Clifton Strengths assessment, go to:


Dr. Arne Gundersen

Man pointing to PowerPoint slide about teeth.
Dr. Gundersen illustrates the effects of gum disease.

Dr. Arne Gundersen, from Gundersen Dental Care  in Thurston County gave a health and wellness talk. His presentation, “The Link between Oral Health and Wellness,” illustrated the correlation between periodontal disease and its impact on our overall health.

He said periodontal disease (the body’s inflammatory response to infections caused by buildup of bacteria and debris around the teeth and gums) can put you at risk for more serious diseases like diabetes and heart attacks.

He offered a series of preventative tips like using electric toothbrushes and/or a water pic.

Women’s History Month

collage of women representing various occupations
Image courtesy of pixabay.com

March is Women’s History Month. Rebecca Llewellyn, the Governor’s Industrial Safety and Health Conference and Events Manager for the Department of Labor and Industries also gave a brief presentation on events L&I sponsored for Women’s History Month.

L&I has a Women’s History Month Display in its lobby with a newsletter with Women’s History Facts and a list of books and movies on women’s history.

Women’s History Month Tours at the Governor’s Mansion

portrait of woman on stairs
Evelyn Langlie, Photo from Washington State Archives

March is Women’s History Month.  The Governor’s Mansion will be offering a special series of public tours with docents wearing period clothing and giving presentations about various “First Ladies” of the state’s history. Below is the information from the Department of Enterprise Services.

OLYMPIA — Meet some of Washington’s First Ladies and one Governor on “special first-person tours” of the Washington state Governor’s Mansion on Wednesdays March 6, at 2 and 2:20 p.m.; March 13, at 1 and 1:20 p.m.; and March 27, at 2 and 2:20 p.m.

The tours, part of Women’s History Month in March, will feature Governor’s Mansion Foundation docents dressed “in character.” They will share historical moments about the people and events of the Mansion throughout its 110-year history.

From the early years of the Mansion through the dramatic events of two wars and the history-making tenure of the state’s first woman governor, Dixy Lee Ray, visitors will learn and enjoy important history through this personal and unique trip through the Mansion. The First Ladies spotlighted on the 40-minute tour will include Lizzie Hay, Alma Lister, Margaret Martin, Evelyn Langlie, Mabel Wallgren, Lois Spellman and Nancy Evans.

“It is important to point out that current First Lady, Trudi Inslee, has helped the Foundation make these tours possible,” said Dawna Donohue, vice president and chair of the Mansion Tours. “Her support and cooperation have been priceless to help the Foundation continue its mission.”


Reservations MUST be made at least 24-hours in advance (reservations are on a first-come, first served basis so schedule early). To make a reservation go to https://apps.des.wa.gov/Mansion/Mansion.aspx.”

For questions or additional information, please contact the State Capitol Tour Office at 360.902.8880.

Governor’s Mansion tours are available every Wednesday (except holidays and the month of August).  All tours are made possible by the Governor’s Mansion Foundation.

Tour information

Adult tour guests must present photo identification and all visitors under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. No cameras, umbrellas, strollers, or food/drink will be allowed on the tour. The Mansion is accessible to wheelchairs and walkers. Visitors must walk a 200-yard incline up to the entrance.

Visitors to the Georgian-style mansion, situated on a bluff overlooking Capitol Lake, Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, will get a 45- minute walking tour of the Mansion. The circa-1908 Mansion is the oldest building on Olympia’s Capitol Campus.

Visitors will get guided tours of the Mansion’s permanent collection of antique furnishings and Northwest artwork, including the renowned wall-size murals of Washington scenes in the state dining room.

Governor’s Mansion Foundation

The Governor’s Mansion Foundation, an all-volunteer, non-profit, non-partisan organization, hosts weekly tours of the Mansion on most Wednesdays (except holidays and the month of August).

To learn more on becoming a “Friend of the Mansion”, or for more information on the GMF, visit www.wagovmansion.org.