"All the men were able to spend the night, but I had to commute," she said. "So I very discreetly just checked myself into a separate hotel (without anyone being the wiser). I would work late with the team, have dinner with them, and meet them for breakfast. They thought I was a real trouper." While the men submitted their hotel room expenses, she put in for mileage. She never told anyone at the company how she overcame that obstacle.
Creating Her Own Network
Ms. Garcia's involvement with ALPFA came partly out of necessity, in addition to the recognition of the importance of relationships and networking. "Becoming the first Hispanic woman CPA in the state of Texas was an achievement, which created an awareness that I would have to build my own network," she said.
Ms. Garcia's visibility eventually resulted in an appointment by President Carter to a five-year term on the Copyright Royalty Tribunal, where she became the chair. "This window on Washington as I helped legislate the royalty rates for the cable industry, recording industry, noncommercial television industry, and jukeboxes gave me many other opportunities to work in ALPFA," she said.
When her role on the tribunal ended, she became a partner at the Washington, D.C., office of Quezada Navarro & Co., at the time the largest Hispanic accounting firm in the country. After she became the first female national president of ALPFA, "the recognition and the prestige that position carried with it" caused her to be noticed by her current employer, the GAO.
The Government Accountability Office is the audit, evaluation and investigative arm of Congress. It supports Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities and helps to improve the performance and accountability of the government for the American people.
Among its duties are to examine the use of public funds; evaluate federal programs and policies; and provide analyses, recommendations, and other assistance to help Congress make informed decisions.
A Deep Concern For People
She keeps Comptroller General Gene L. Dodaro, the head of the GAO, informed about fraud or other serious problems in the GAO's programs and operations. For example, she'll conduct a periodic evaluation of the office's implementation of federal computer security requirements and do individual investigations into fraud, waste, and abuse allegations.
"Frances' greatest strength is her concern for people," said Mr. Dodaro, "and in her role at GAO, it is also the depth and breadth of her experiences in the accountability profession and her sound professional judgment. Every government agency needs an eff ective watchdog to ensure operations are functioning in the best interest of the public, and I know Frances always has that public interest in mind. She has been a great asset in helping GAO improve its operations." Mr. Dodaro added, "Frances set her sights on the accounting profession and never looked back. She had the vision of success and was able to break barriers."
One of the biggest congressional issues Ms. Garcia has dealt with is diversity. Last year a congressional subcommittee asked her office to work with four other legislative branch agency Inspectors General to review how the agencies are managing diversity. This request was a first, and Ms. Garcia testified before Congress on the issue. Also of concern to the office is oversight of the stimulus package.
"It's an important time to be part of GAO," Ms. Garcia said. "Th e agency recognizes how critical a role GAO will play to help ensure accountability and transparency in regard to the stimulus. But the agency played a major role in reporting on the TARP program and all of us at GAO are confident we will be able to meet our responsibilities here as well."
Values are important at the Government Accountability Office. "We have tremendous pride in being a model agency and are considered one of the best places to work in the federal government," the inspector general said. "Our core values are accountability, integrity, and reliability." Ms. Garcia herself embodies these values. "My mother held us accountable," she said. "None of this, 'They made me do it.' ... Integrity is foremost. You cannot lead others if they do not believe you will speak the truth."
She believes it's her duty and responsibility to mentor others.
"One lesson I would want to share with women is that you can do it if you apply yourself and work hard. One of the things that has helped me the most is a positive attitude. ... I would also tell women don't be afraid to ask for help, to network with friends and family."
In her free time, Ms. Garcia, who is single, enjoys yoga, hiking, and rock climbing. She even bungee jumped in New Zealand in 2006. "It's the scariest thing I ever did," she admitted. She would one day like to make a tandem parachute jump out of a plane. Yet more proof that whether at work or play, no goal is too high or unattainable for Woman of the Year Frances Garcia.
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