When President Clinton asked Ruth Goldway to serve on the Postal Rate Commission (PRC; now known as the Postal Regulatory Commission) in 1998, it was not her first job choice. She had hoped to be on the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which she thought would be a better fit for her background and interests. Clinton was interested in seeing more women represented in all areas of public policy, and he encouraged her to see what she could do add value to an agency that touches so many people, six days a week. Goldway soon found that her background in consumer advocacy, environmental issues and citizen participation would be put to good purpose in her role as Commissioner.
As it turned out, Goldways move to Washington would also allow her to pursue her interest in womens issues. What Hillary Clinton told her at the time still resonates today: What happens with women in politics is that the public worries more about hats than facts. Throughout her career, Goldway has worked to change that dynamic and encourage the role of women in the public policy arena.
Goldway was re-appointed Commissioner of the PRC by President George W. Bush in November, 2002 to serve a second term, ending in November 2008. The Postal Regulatory Commission, the successor agency of the former PRC, oversees the performance and accountability of the U.S. Postal Service, the worlds largest post and the second-largest civilian employer in the United States. Goldway has written on a variety of postal topics, such as Vote by Mail, for national newspapers and has submitted congressional testimony. She also represents the Commission on the State Department delegation to the Universal Postal Union. Her advocacy and leadership were instrumental in the Postal Services adoption of the Forever Stamp in March 2007.
While serving in Washington, DC, Goldway co-founded a new networking organization, the Women in Logistics and Delivery Services (WILDS), and serves as co-Chair. Started in 2006, WILDS is focused on supporting education and advancement for women in the mailing and shipping industry. She also finds time to lecture on topics such as the role of women in government and topics around citizen and consumer issues at universities and professional associations throughout the US, Europe, Australia and Japan.
Throughout her career, Goldway has advocated successfully on behalf of the issues she believes in. Her advocacy for environmental, consumer and citizen participation issues has encompassed urban planning and womens issues as well. This focus has been at the forefront of her public service career, as Assistant to the Director of Californias Department of Consumer Affairs during the 1970s, as an elected council member and mayor of the city of Santa Monica from 1979 to 1983, as a founder of Californias system of statewide farmers markets as well as a founder and as chairperson of the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corporation from 1983-1994.
Goldway continued her career in Public Service as Director of Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles, one of the nations most racially and ethnically diverse campuses. She also served as Manager of Public Affairs for the Getty Trust, the largest arts and education foundation in the US.
From 1994-97, Goldway was an ambassadorial spouse in Finland, where she continued her work of involving women in community action, politics and culture. She sponsored both American and international womens groups and worked to promote American products and services. These included conferences as well as programs and activities sponsored by the embassy or other organizations. Whenever a visiting dignitary came to Finland, as Hillary Clinton did during her stay, Goldway would include a womens event as part of the ambassadorial programs and calendar. She authored several articles that appeared in the Finnish magazine Gloria as well as a memoir of her experiences, Letters from Finland, published in 1998.
Goldways interest in consumer advocacy began in the early 70s, when she was involved with food safety and labeling. She became knowledgeable about government issues and took the lead on putting citizens on 30 regulatory boards in the state of California. Her involvement in these efforts resulted in her being hired by Governor Jerry Brown as Assistant Director of Consumer Affairs for the state of California.
In that capacity, she was able to pass a law mandating at least one citizen be a member on each and every regulatory board, appointed by the governor. As a result, a new group of active citizens and volunteers became involved in California public affairs and began to network with each other. Many of these volunteers were women, and they often sat on primarily male regulatory boards. They were able to contribute another point of view, along with providing accountability to citizen interests.
In 1977, Goldway ran for State Assembly and lost. Her neighbors in Santa Monica then drafted her to run for Council and eventually Mayor. She was on the council for four years, giving her experience in urban politics. Her farmers market in Santa Monica became the biggest and most successful in the state. She tackled quality-of-life issues, including the environment, the arts, balanced economic development and rent control. She is most proud of the Womens Commission and the city plan she helped to initiate, which resulted in a whole new development plan for the city. They also successfully passed many reforms to make Santa Monica more child- and pedestrian-friendly.
At that time, the now world-famous Santa Monica pier was rundown and crime-ridden. Goldway was a founding member of the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corporation and served as chair for 14 years. That group was responsible for making the Pier and the surrounding Santa Monica beach area the beautiful and thriving destination that it is today. The pier project was completed in 1996 two years after she left. It is a successful, municipally owned development corporation led by volunteers.
Consistent with her early work in California with food labeling, at the Postal Commission she was an early endorser of mail standards for every type of mail with up-front disclosures and measurability. She is also continuing her focus on environmental issues. Although she is not happy that customers believe they are receiving too much mail, she understands their concerns and is interested in exploring ways in which the industry can respond.
Following on her interest in citizen participation, Goldway always encourages full participation in PRC hearings, especially from private citizens. She is supportive and patient and makes it a priority to ensure that individuals are heard and respected. She has also worked with the former office of the consumer advocate to encourage other groups to participate in hearings.
Goldway has been reaching out to women over the years. Two of those women are Anita Pursley and Joy Leong. Both are dynamic women, and Goldway shared a natural bond with them in the predominantly male mailing and shipping industry. Leong reached out because she felt there was a need to build a network.
Goldway had already begun to build that network in an informal way. Together, they decided that there was a need for more structure and that Goldway had the resources and social network to help pull a group together. They decided to share energies, and the positive response was overwhelming. WILDS has brought a lot of fun and spirit into the work I do, says Goldway.
The first meeting was in April 2006 with about half a dozen women. The first program was at the Postal Museum with Katherine Tobin, a member of the USPS Board of Governors. Now the all-volunteer group meets quarterly, pays annual dues and has a thriving membership, a website, corporate papers and a brochure. It is legally incorporated as a non-profit.
Goldway believes that the shared energy helps women move up in their careers and be better workers and people. WILDS is growing nicely and is focusing on how to include more younger members. It is important not to grow so quickly that WILDS becomes bureaucratic, says Goldway. It should be voluntary if the programs are interesting, people will come to know us and will want to be a part of the whole experience. She hopes that though involvement with WILDS women can advance their interests and enhance their careers.
Goldway believes that there is a lingering bias against women on the technology side of the business. There have been real changes as more women have entered the workforce especially since the 70s, notes Goldway. For the most part, the jobs we got were in government relations, the law and personnel. Soon, many of these women will retire, and we are reaching out to younger working women, hoping to make their climb up the ladder easier, faster and further.
Women tend to underestimate their skills and abilities as well as their range of experience. Practical life skills are relevant, and multi-tasking is an important part of a resume. In that I have been successful, it is because whatever came up, I found skills in my background I could call upon, adjust to the task at hand and make the effort to be of value to my organization and to the larger community. Women are adaptive and creative. And we can make the most of new opportunities and, ultimately, succeed.