National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

October 31, 2022 - With renewed commitment and an action plan to improve Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility, the National Weather Service is promoting more women into leadership positions today than ever before. Today’s National Weather Service employs many outstanding women leaders, and one of them is Allison Allen (“Allie”), who took the helm of the Analyze, Forecast and Support Office earlier this year. We caught up with Allie to discuss her career path, thoughts on women leaders in STEM, and the women who inspired her along the way.

What is your role at the National Weather Service?
I manage the largest National Weather Service portfolio by planning, formulating, and executing a 500 million dollar annual budget, which funds the agency’s field operations. I also oversee program management of 11 national service programs and develop and execute a portfolio annual operating plan.

What sparked your interest in a science career, and how did you land at NOAA?
I always knew I wanted to be a scientist. In my junior year of college, I embarked on a sea semester, studying physical oceanography aboard a 125’ schooner. I used NOAA data to support my research, and I learned a lot about the agency in the process. Immediately after that experience, I sought an internship at NOAA. That internship was the first step in what has been an incredibly rewarding career to-date! I learn something new every day at this agency, even after nearly 20 years working here.


Photo of Allie Allen
Allison Allen, director, Analyze, Forecast and Support Office, NOAA National Weather Service

What advice do you have for young women scientists who strive to serve in a leadership role?
First and foremost, put yourself out there. Don’t be afraid to speak up. I firmly believe that if you lead with integrity and show up authentically in everything you do, that you already encompass the most important characteristics of a leader. If you are interested in an opportunity, raise your hand. If an opportunity doesn’t already exist, ask for one. Demonstrating initiative is very important; you may be surprised at how many people are willing to take a chance on someone who is eager and motivated to learn and grow. I also recommend thinking about and planning out your career path. Always look out for growth and development opportunities – especially those that are outside of your comfort zone – because those will help you develop core competencies and keep your career path on an upward trajectory.

What motto do you live by?
“Say what you mean, and mean what you say.” Not only does that motto govern my approach to interpersonal interactions in a professional setting, but I also teach my two young daughters the same thing. I gravitate towards this motto because it models directness and integrity and is a good reminder that if you are not willing to advocate for yourself, you cannot expect others to know what you need.

Tell us about the evolving role of women at the National Weather Service.
This is an incredibly exciting time to be a woman at the National Weather Service! We are seeing women assume leadership roles at all levels here, at NOAA, and at the Department of Commerce. It feels like new doors are opening every day. This culture shift is part of a concerted push in recent years to achieve gender equality at the National Weather Service, with strategies to improve both recruitment and retention.

One of the most powerful tools for eliminating implicit bias in recruitment is the use of blind resume reviews, which we do in my office and in many other parts of the agency. With respect to retention, I have seen so many new opportunities for employee support and networking. Specific to women in the workforce, there is an excellent Employee Resource Group for women at NOAA. Having a safe place to discuss gender-specific challenges in the workplace is an important step in both destigmatizing these conversations and seeking solutions for systemic issues. These efforts have led to an increase in the number of women in leadership positions and a shift towards a more supportive and collegial culture.

I am so excited about this organizational culture shift because it signals a more diverse and inclusive future for our agency, and STEM careers as a whole.

What’s the “Last Frontier” for gender equality at the National Weather Service? What hurdles still exist?
While a great deal of work and progress has been made in the area of gender equality at the organizational level, eliminating deeply ingrained bias is a slower process. Microaggressions and gender bias are still sometimes painfully present in the workplace. I have personally experienced a range of these slights over the years. Thankfully, the culture is shifting and this unacceptable behavior is called out more often now than it used to be. If you experience these situations, it is important to remember that you have earned your place - don’t let it shake your confidence or cause self doubt.You do not need to endure uncomfortable or inappropriate situations in the workplace. Find someone you feel comfortable speaking to, and verbalize your concerns so that they can be addressed. My door is always open!

What are some of the specific ways that you have advocated for change?
I am so grateful to have had wonderful mentors throughout my career, both men and women. I am personally dedicated to mentoring others and helping to grow and support the next generation of leaders in our organization.

Two phrases struck a chord when I first heard them. The first was, “Help the next one in line.” The second was, “If someone is worthy of your currency, spend it.” I am acutely aware that many people have helped me throughout my career and that now I have a responsibility to foster development in those looking for new opportunities. I try never to miss an opportunity to advocate for others, or speak up on their behalf. As a leader, I’m actively working to create a diverse and inclusive workplace through our office-wide Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan. We’re carrying out short and long-term strategies based on ideas from employees through Federal Employee Viewpoint surveys.

Who is the most influential woman you know? How does she inspire you?
Many women have contributed to who I am today, but two in particular have had a profound influence on me:

  • First, an American sailor named Tania Aebi sailed around the world alone at age 18, making her the first woman and youngest person at the time to have completed this endeavor. I read her book in high school and was inspired by her persistence and commitment to making a goal and sticking with it, despite significant challenges. Setting professional goals for myself has been fundamental to charting my career path, so while I have never met Ms. Aebi, I often harken back to her story.

  • The second is my grandmother, who was absolutely the most positive person I have ever met. I regularly find myself channeling her outlook on life. While unchecked optimism can certainly lead to blind spots, the ability to always look for the good in any situation has served me extremely well in both my personal and professional lives.