By Patricia H Kushlis
Madeleine Albright wrote in “My Undiplomatic Moment,” a commentary published in The New York Times on February 13, 2016, that she had said at a Clinton rally in New Hampshire “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” She explained that that she had first used the phrase nearly 25 years earlier when she was US Ambassador to the UN. She almost seemed surprised that her most recent iteration had gone viral on social media, not been received as intended and more or less regretted saying it.
I’d like to know, however, just how helpful she (1997-2001), Hillary (2009-2013) or, for that matter, Condoleezza Rice (2005-2009) were when they were Secretaries of State to women in the career Foreign Service. Albright, Rice and Clinton, after all, occupied the lofty position for a combined total of 12 years since Albright assumed it as our first female Secretary in 1997. Verbally advocating women’s rights is nice, but actually righting a long standing injustice in one’s own department is another.
What did any of them do to help career Foreign Service women at State?
I haven’t observed that any of them can point to real progress in improving gender or racial equality while running the State Department. As I previously wrote in several WV posts beginning in 2011, the situation in terms of gender and minorities at the State Department has remained so unequal that State’s statistics on promotion by gender and race (which had once upon a time been made publicly available) are being kept behind a “hard line” under an SBU (an administrative classification) designation: Year after year after year.
As I noted in “Still a Man’s World? Foggy Bottom’s Bohemian Grove” on July 22, 2011, “the paucity of gender based promotion data over the past decade in State’s official magazine has been palpable.” This was well into Hillary’s term as Secretary. In a 2014 video entitled “In Search of Diversity,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, then Director General of the Foreign Service, was refreshingly frank about the problem stating that “At the mid-levels and senior levels the numbers are not there.”
Nothing has changed since then: I understand that the data for 2015 is no exception.
Yet every other department in the federal government has complied with the federal law for years. Why are OPM (Office of Personnel Management) and the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) required by law to report on how federal agencies are complying with EEO regulations and mandates yet the State Department has either exempted itself or been exempted from reporting EEO numbers for the Foreign Service?
I understand that potential bills have been discussed this session in the US Senate and House to force State to make the statistics public – but whether these bills will ever become law is another story. In any event, they seem redundant to me – shouldn’t State just be made to comply with existing law by its Secretary? Shouldn’t the Secretary of State simply order State’s Office of Civil Rights, whose Director reports directly to the Secretary, to comply with the law and publicly release the stats? Isn’t that all it would take? It’s not as if releasing aggregate numbers would present either a security or a privacy risk.
Gender Mainstreaming Assessment? What Is That?
I’d also like to know why the State Department has just “launched” (its term, not mine) a bizarre “Gender Mainstreaming Assessment” which may or may not be designed to assess gender equality and the status of women in other countries. Or is it to assess the promotion of gender equality and status of women in American missions in the US and overseas? Hard to say – the announcement is so garbled. Nevertheless, rather than have State’s own staff produce this assessment which is what should happen, contracts have been let to Dynamo Technologies and Blue Compass: two firms which appear to have scant, if any, qualifications for the task at hand.
Previous WV posts on gender and minorities issues:
For other State Department Human Resources related WV posts see: The Troubled State of State.