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Penny Pritzker – D.C.'s Top 50 Women in Tech 2015

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Penny Pritzker

Secretary of Commerce
U.S. Department of Commerce

Few people in Washington have spoken more about data in the past year than Penny Pritzker.

As the government begins to realize the value of the data it creates and provides to the public, Pritzker has taken it upon herself to brand the Commerce Department as “America’s Data Agency.”

“It is not hyperbole to call the Department of Commerce, 'America’s Data Agency,'” Pritzker said at an Esri conference last June. “No other department can rival the reach, depth and breadth of our data programs.”

Data is more than a set of numbers entered into a spreadsheet. Data can drive innovation in our society.

She has a point. Commerce is responsible for agencies that produce some of the most valuable data the government has to offer: The Census Bureau, Bureau of Economic Analysis, and National Telecommunications and Information Administration are constantly creating new data indicators and measures for the public to use. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration alone produces 2 terabytes of weather and ocean data every day.

Outside of data, Pritzker has been traveling the world, promoting entrepreneurship in Africa and Asia.

“The fact is, when women entrepreneurs take risks and succeed, societies change for the better,” Pritzker said in November during a trip to Morocco. “Expectations change, not only for other women, but for men and children, too. It becomes easier to accept the idea of a woman as a family’s breadwinner, the head of a household, a community leader or a head of state.”

Those ideas have been Pritzker’s reality, having spent time managing her family’s extensive business portfolio, and founding parking management and real estate companies. But for now, Pritzker sees her role as being the person who can take the government’s data to the next level.

“Data is more than a set of numbers entered into a spreadsheet,” she said in June. “Data can deliver better health outcomes. Data can generate increased economic growth. Data can drive innovation in our society – innovation that improves the lives of millions every day.”

– Greg Otto

Read the full story about this year's selection of D.C.'s Top 50 Women in Technology, and view the full list here.