International Women's Day is a globally recognized day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. This year, FEMA is marking the occasion by highlighting members of our Women’s Forum, an organization working to create an inclusive and respectful culture at FEMA. These four women will be part of a panel discussion "Breaking Barriers: Women Who Inspire," to be held for FEMA employees.
Listed by the Clinton Foundation as one of 12 people “who will inspire you to make a difference,” Kristin Duquette serves as a Preparedness Officer for FEMA’s Transportation Security Grant program.
Kristin is a globally recognized disability rights advocate and former world-class athlete who served as a political appointee in the Obama Administration. She is a five-time American Paralympic Record Holder, three-time Junior National Record Holder and the former Captain of the U.S. Paralympic Swim Team for the 2010 Greek Open.
In 2014, Kristin was named the global mentor for disability inclusion initiatives under the Clinton Global Initiative University, and her analysis of United Nations disability policies has been archived in the Academic Council on the United Nations System. She received the 2019 FEMA Administrator Award in Diversity Management and Inclusion for her contributions to the FEMA Women’s Forum Leadership Team. Kristin is currently a student at the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security Program.
Rae Walker-Ellis is a Senior Grants Management Specialist, currently deployed as the Regional Response Coordination Center Deputy Logistics Section Chief, COVID19 Vaccine Distribution in FEMA Region 3. Rae says one of the biggest challenges of her career has been not always having a mentor or sponsor for guidance and support.
“We need to have people in our lives who can give us exposure to opportunities, career guidance/modeling, and even moments for constructive criticism,” said Rae.
To overcome this lack of mentoring, she became proactive in creating her own support tribe and framing a motivational mindset for herself. Rae identified people who inspired her and asked them for informational interviews. She also joined, and took on leadership roles for, professional and civic organizations. Rae developed the courage to make the ask for mentorship, and learned how not to underestimate the ways that she could make the mentorship mutually beneficial.
Dr. Melissa Forbes is the Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Recovery Directorate at FEMA. Prior to this position, Dr. Forbes served as Acting Deputy Chief Information Officer where she led the implementation of FEMA’s Strategic Goal 3: Reduce the Complexity of FEMA. In this role she championed new technology and processes to make the Office of the Chief Information Officer a more collaborative and customer-focused organization.
Melissa also served as the Acting Deputy Associate Administrator for FEMA's Office of Policy and Program Analysis. During the record-breaking 2017 hurricane season, she deployed to FEMA's National Response Coordination Center as Deputy Chief of Situational Awareness. Melissa joined DHS in 2010, working in the National Protection and Programs Directorate’s Office of Risk Management and Analysis, the Council on Environmental Quality and the DHS Office of Policy.
Ann Gomes has served FEMA for over 14 years. She is the Deputy infrastructure Branch Director of Special Operations and Support for Region 4’s Orlando Processing Center and a member of the CORE Value Team and Women’s Forum.
“As women, we need to be confident in ourselves and our ability to do anything,” Ann says. “You need to know who you are as a person and express that.” Her role models are successful women who push the boundaries of gender equality by utilizing their strengths and leadership qualities – in skill, knowledge, experience and emotion. The ever-changing remote work environment has become a new challenge for many. As a leader and mentor, she remains accountable, accessible, transparent and empathetic to all who reach out for support and guidance.