‘Failure to confront is permission to continue,’ says female former IT leader to women in federal tech

During this administration women in federal IT should be “even more vocal,” the recently former deputy CIO for policy and planning at the Department of Agriculture said Thursday.
Joyce Hunter, Deputy Chief Information Officer welcomes students from Charles H. Flowers High School in Springdale, Maryland to the U.S Department of Agriculture, Office of the Chief Information Officer Information Technology Job Shadow Day in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 10, 2015. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

During Donald Trump’s administration, women in federal IT should be “even more vocal,” the former deputy CIO for policy and planning at the Department of Agriculture said Thursday.

Joyce Hunter, a political appointee, was asked during an event Thursday in Washington how to approach mentoring and advocating for women in IT, given what Trump has said about women in the past. Asked how important it is to push women’s involvement in federal IT in this administration, she responded immediately, “I think it’s very important.”

“Failure to confront is permission to continue,” she said to applause at the luncheon in Washington hosted by the Association for Federal Information Resource Management.

“I think you have to confront it head on,” she said. “There are always going to be people who are going to try and bully their way through their lives. There are going to be people who are going to be there to try to demand their way through life. However, I think it’s important for us as women in this arena to continue to support the young women and say, ‘you know, yeah yeah that’s what he says. But keep going. Keep going. Until they tell you to stop, keep moving.’”


She said that while at the Agriculture Department she always encouraged people to come to her with an idea so they could work through it together.

“I don’t believe in no. I don’t believe in can’t. I don’t believe in shouldn’t. I don’t believe in wouldn’t,” she said. “Let’s figure it out together and then let’s move forward.”

Earlier during the lunch Hunter, who has an undergraduate degree in sociology and an MBA in marketing, said that there were very few people who looked like her in leadership positions when she got out of graduate school. Often the only person of color, or the only woman in the room, she said people often didn’t pay attention to her.

When she spoke up during meetings “either it was discounted or else somebody would say something five minutes later — the same exact thing — and it was all awesome,” she said. “So I decided that early on that I was going to think outside of the box and get coalition of the willing. And even though I was told no, I’d do it anyway. Yeah I’d get yelled at along the way, but I knew in my heart that I enjoyed whatever customer I was working for.”

Answering the question about women in IT during the Trump administration, Hunter said: “Given the current tenor of the administration I would say we have to be even more vocal.”


“If you’re not in trouble you’re not doing anything right,” she said.

Samantha Ehlinger

Written by Samantha Ehlinger

Samantha Ehlinger is a technology reporter for FedScoop. Her work has appeared in the Houston Chronicle, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and several McClatchy papers, including Miami Herald and The State. She was a part of a McClatchy investigative team for the “Irradiated” project on nuclear worker conditions, which won a McClatchy President’s Award. She is a graduate of Texas Christian University. Contact Samantha via email at, or follow her on Twitter at @samehlinger. Subscribe to the Daily Scoop for stories like this in your inbox every morning by signing up here:

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