Remarks for Women Build America: Women Construction Owners and Executives Association’s National Leadership Summit on April 8, 2024 as Prepared for Deputy Administrator Katy Kale

I’m glad to be here with so many women and industry leaders from all across the country. I’ve brought an all-star panel of GSA leaders with me today. About an hour from now, they’ll share more about what GSA does when it comes to sustainability, engineering, modernization, historic preservation, and helping businesses succeed in the federal marketplace. But before that happens, I’m here to set the stage… 

Some of you may be wondering, what is GSA, or I’ve heard of GSA, but what exactly do they do? Well please allow me to brag for a bit – because I truly believe GSA is one of the most important agencies in the federal government. I think that because the US General Services Administration is essentially the backbone of the federal government. We are a trusted partner and expert resource for our sister agencies. We are responsible for managing our nation’s real estate, acquisitions, and technology solutions so the government can operate at its highest potential. We also deliver directly for the American people so they can get the government services they need, including through websites like USAGov and login gov. But today we are talking about GSA’s role in real estate and acquisition – which has never been more important. Our Public Building Service continues to grow and shift as they support the fast-changing space, equipment, and technology needs of our customer agencies as they work to meet their missions and deliver for those they serve.

We know that public buildings, from offices to courthouses, play an important role in local communities. Our buildings tell the story of our nation and our democracy, reminding visitors of who we are as a country – and who we want to be. And GSA has a lot of buildings. In fact, GSA owns or leases roughly 86 hundred facilities in more than 2000 communities across the United States – and more than 90% of our annual buildings budget is spent with regional and local businesses. I am proud to say, we have over 700 women-owned companies working on about 500 million dollars worth of GSA building and construction projects right now. And we just held our first construction awards ceremony and, of the 14 award winners, half of them were women-owned construction firms - which is just one of the reasons we want to work with firms like yours on our projects. GSA is here to continue supporting businesses like yours so that you can thrive and reach your full potential – our Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization is a great resource for that. 

From forecasting tools and new identifiers for a diverse range of businesses… to training, outreach, and resources – we’re committed to making it easier for you to succeed in the federal marketplace. And that includes the marketplace as a whole, not just the construction industry. For example, every year, the federal government sets a goal to award 5% of contracting dollars to women-owned small businesses - and in FY23, GSA awarded those businesses more than 4 billion dollars. I could spend all day telling you about the breadth and depth of our mission, but, for now, I’ll leave it at this: GSA drives the government forward so we can deliver for everyone.

Now, as women who are experts, business owners, and leaders in your fields, you know a lot about delivering for people. Throughout history, women have faced countless challenges and barriers to entrepreneurship. Yet, despite these obstacles, women have not only persevered, but thrived, making significant contributions to our nation’s economy.  And still today - courageous women like you - who are entrepreneurs and small business owners - dare to dream, take risks, and turn your visions into reality. And I can relate to those feelings. Before becoming the Deputy Administrator of GSA, I was the President and Chief Operating Officer of a woman-owned, women-run small business - so I understand the sacrifices, the long hours, and the challenges that many of you face everyday.  But I also know the immense joy, fulfillment, and sense of accomplishment that comes from building something from the ground up. It’s a journey filled with highs and lows, but it’s a journey that shapes and ultimately defines who we are.  And when we zoom out, we recognize we are continuing the great American story of progress, resilience, and possibilities. We are delivering a brighter future for the American people.

But, just as important as what we deliver, is how we do it – and at GSA, how we are able to deliver to our customers –  starts with our people-first culture. As Deputy Administrator of GSA, I’m the COO for a nationwide organization of over 12 thousand people. That means I’m focused on keeping the lights on, driving the mission forward, and taking care of the people who make that happen. GSA’s award-winning culture has been recognized as one of the government’s “top 5 best places to work” for 2 years running… and the feedback from our workforce tells us that we’re on track to keep that ranking. Why? Because we know that our teammates are our most important asset – and we do everything we can to recruit, develop, and retain our workforce to not only deliver on our mission, but to do so in a way that fulfills them. One example of our people-first culture is our agency’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. We know that it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that all GSA employees are equipped to contribute their best. In order for us to serve America, we must represent all of America – and that means the diversity of our nation should be present in our workplaces. That means recognizing that not everyone starts at the same place or has the same needs as they navigate the playing field. We have to meet everyone’s needs and ensure that all of us have equal opportunity to contribute. We must identify and overcome barriers wherever we find them and be ready to change our processes and mindsets. We must make sure that everyone feels valued and respected in our individual identities, treating everyone with dignity while strengthening our shared understanding. We must make sure that everyone – our employees and our customers – has the ability to engage without burden. All of that is how we make DEIA an action, rather than an idea.

Women are leading that work – and I’m not just talking about the two women leading this agency – Administrator Robin Carnahan and myself.  From our first-ever Senior Advisor to the Administrator on Equity – to the leads of the Equity Action Team, our agency wide Equity Action Plan has been informed, written, and implemented by women. That commitment to DEIA also translates to the work we do across the nation. Our buildings recognize and reflect the diversity of the communities they inhabit. They incorporate universal and flexible design best practices, artwork from local artists, and signage in multiple languages. They seek to protect the environment while creating resilient, sustainable spaces that enrich the world around them. And we’re always eager to partner with people who share those same goals and values.

It’s clear that companies like yours represent an incredible impact on the economy – and so many of you are ready to help GSA deliver efficiently, effectively, and equitably for the American people.

I know I’m surrounded by women leaders who are delivering great outcomes for their customers and their communities.

For the rest of today, in addition to watching the eclipse (!) and hearing from our fabulous GSAers on the panel in about an hour, I hope you continue to:

  • Champion women in business,
  • Make lasting connections, 
  • And pave the way for future generations of women entrepreneurs!

Thank you.