International Women’s Day Panel: TSA women inspiring others by sharing life’s lessons on professional success

Thursday, March 18, 2021
Lynes and Fitzmaurice photo

Move over Rosie the Riveter. The iconic fictional embodiment of the WWII era woman, who mobilized in factories and shipyards when America’s men left for war, would have been inspired by the accomplished panel of TSA women assembled in a virtual setting to commemorate International Women’s Day.

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From left, Mariely Loperena Moure, Federal Security Director for Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands; Jeannette Fassl, International Industry Representative for the United Kingdom, Ireland, Iceland and Scandinavia; Naomi Gonzalez, Regional Bureau Chief for the Western Hemisphere (Screenshots by Dariusz Witko)

Six women representing TSA in international aviation operations drew on their own experiences to answer questions that have been asked of successful professional women for decades. What are your guiding principles when balancing personal and professional responsibilities? How do you remain resilient in the face of setbacks?

The panelists gave candid, no-holds-barred and transparent responses to an audience of over 375 people.  They shared their personal stories and provided useful, sensible advice.

Opening remarks came from Women Executives@TSA executive board member and Professional Responsibility Unit Chief Diane Wilson and the Senior Official Performing the Duties of Deputy Administrator Stacey Fitzmaurice. “The theme for this year is ‘choose to challenge,’” said Fitzmaurice. “As I look at the panelists today, I’m really excited and proud of the extraordinary diversity in both the culture and experience they represent.”

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From left, Holly Bolger, Transportation Security Administration Representative (TSAR) Belgium; Danielle Boyce, TSAR Eastern Caribbean; Haley Gallagher, TSAR United Kingdom, Iceland and Ireland (Screenshots by Dariusz Witko)

The panel moderator, Deputy Assistant Administrator for International Operations Craig Lynes, guided the conversation by asking each panelist to share her unique career path. For each of these TSA professionals, “choose to challenge” is a life mantra requiring guts, determination and support.

As unique as fingerprints, the panelists’ appetite for international service was cultivated by their respective families and communities, and ultimately shaped by individual passions. Meet them and read one golden nugget from each.

Mariely Loperena Moure is TSA’s Federal Security Director for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. With the support of her hard-working family who valued education, Moure moved stateside from her native Puerto Rico to begin a career with the Department of Defense. Moure’s authenticity and sense of humor shone through the computer screen. She emphasized the importance of “finding and using your voice, even if they look at you like you are crazy!”

Jeannette Fassl, International Industry Representative to the United Kingdom, Ireland, Iceland and Scandinavia, credits her sassy French-born grandmother as her international muse. In addressing the dual hats many mothers often wear, Fassl, a mother of two noted, “It’s not so much a choice as a balancing act – a really freaking hard balancing act. My guiding principle is family always and mission always too, but finding that balance between the two with the help of your community.”

Naomi Gonzalez, Regional Bureau Chief for the Western Hemisphere, was awakened to what she terms global citizenship in the earliest days of the internet when, from her native Puerto Rico, she “chatted” with an acquaintance in Madrid, Spain. Gonzalez stays on top of her game by always being one step ahead. “I organize myself. I anticipate possible emergencies dealing with logistic challenges at home with the kids and I plan for it,” said Gonzalez.

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Acting Executive Assistant Administrator for Security Operations Melanie Harvey (Screenshot by Dariusz Witko)

As a child, Holly Bolger, TSA Representative (TSAR) Belgium, lived in Tripoli and Benghazi, Libya with her family for five years, while her father worked abroad for Exxon. While she hailed from the mission support side of the TSA enterprise, she was able to leverage her experience in contracting and procuring security equipment into her current role.

Danielle Boyce, TSAR Eastern Caribbean, now oversees the region from which her parents were born, but didn’t originally consider international work. Her first passport was an official one earned when she acted on her leadership’s suggestion at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport that she compete for a job in the Bahamas. Regarding the skills and experience needed to grow in the international field, Boyce is known as the volunteer queen among her colleagues. “The more exposure you have, the better you’ll be,” explained Boyce.

Haley Gallagher, TSAR United Kingdom, Iceland and Ireland, studied abroad her junior year in college and later served the Peace Corps in Bangladesh. “Discomfort is the beginning of a learning moment,” said Gallagher, about being passed over for a promotion. She took lateral positions and viewed them as growth opportunities. “It took me several years in the agency before I actually earned a promotion and then things started to click.”                                                                                                      

Acting Executive Assistant Administrator for Security Operations Melanie Harvey closed the discussion with thanks to all the participants. “I’m proud to serve beside you,” said Harvey. “Thank you [WE] for providing this forum for people to connect, learn and celebrate. This is a great way to hear somebody else’s truth that might also be our own.”

The Why Not You panel was hosted by WE@TSA, an employee organization focused on the development and growth of all TSA employees, regardless of gender, pay band, or location.