Over the years, there’s been a lot of talk about diversity – or to be blunt, the lack of diversity – in the Foreign Service. So when I saw this article about the women behind the Iran deal, I had a little “I’m so proud to be female!” moment. I mean, not that I don’t think women are badasses everyday, but it’s nice to get a very obvious reminder, particularly when they’re diplomats. A little inspiring. Just a little.
But, according to the latest statistics I could find, only 40% of U.S. Foreign Service Generalist officers are female. The even more startling figure, is that ~83% of all FS Generalists are white. Ouch.
There are several programs and fellowships that try to address diversity and recruitment of minorities and women in the service, so it’s (more than) a little discouraging to see those figures from 2013. What’s going on? Are the programs just not working? Are they really being advertised and promoted enough? In general, I wonder if it’s just a simple matter of a lot of the general public not really understanding what the State Department does as a whole, and what diplomats do. I can’t honestly remember ever learning specifically about State in school; it wasn’t until college that I really understood and learned about this field. Assuming my experience isn’t that unusual, it’s probably not ideal to have kids learn about diplomacy and the amazing work people do at State that late in the game, especially if you want to recruit officers from every nook and cranny of the U.S., and get all types of smart, capable people to represent us abroad.
I’m not sure what the answer is, but I’m curious to see what happens in the future.
For more fun on this topic, you can check out this piece from a few months ago that definitely sparked some, uh, lively debates.