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On April 12, Secretary Blinken announced the appointment of former Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley as the State Department’s chief diversity and inclusion officer. This is a first in the department’s history.
Last year, the Government Accountability Office found that racial or ethnic minorities in the department’s Civil Service were up to 29 percent less likely to be promoted than their white peers with similar qualifications.
The report also found that the higher up you went in the department, the lower the proportion was of women and racial or ethnic minorities.
In other words: up in rank, down in diversity.
There’s been a lot of attention focused on what’s happened with diversity and inclusion in the last few years, including the alarming lack of diversity at the highest levels of the State Department.
But the truth is this problem is as old as the department itself.
It’s systemic. It goes much deeper than any one institution or any one administration – and it’s perpetuated by policies, practices, and people to this day.
That’s why we’ve got to grapple with the problem of unequal representation – and its root causes out in the open.
We can’t sweep it under a rug and pretend it doesn’t exist. This work is hard, it can be painful, but it’s going to make us better diplomats, and it will help us do right by the people on our team who have for too long waged this battle alone.
It’ll also show other countries that we’re practicing what we preach when it comes to working to advance equality and respect here at home.
Today, we’re taking an important step in that direction by naming Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley as our chief diversity and inclusion officer – the first in the department’s history.
We’re asking hard questions.
What’s the full spectrum of diversity we aim to reflect?
How do we incentivize and reward progress? How do we hold ourselves accountable when we fall short?
And recruitment and advancement are just one part of a much broader challenge.
How do we ensure that the voices of people who have often been marginalized and underrepresented are afforded equal weight and respect – by their colleagues, and by our policymaking process?
To change the numbers, we have to change the culture – our norms, our behaviors, our biases.
We can’t build lasting diversity without first building an environment where all people are valued.
That’s the foundation. Laying it is going to be hard work, but I consider it one of my greatest responsibilities as Secretary of State.
We are pleased to see that the new appointee reports directly to Secretary Blinken.
We’d like to make our first public request to the new CDIO.
In 2020, the State Department lost in a discrimination lawsuit filed by an FSO of Hispanic heritage. In that litigation, a document production request was made for data showing what percentage of FSOs who are selected out are minorities. The Department was also asked for the gender/racial breakdown of those who are low ranked by promotion boards. The State Department never produced these statistics.
The State Department could add 1200 diverse new FS employees every year but if they are losing them at the midlevels quietly, the tops ranks will remain the same. We need to see the data of those selected out for non-promotion and data for the gender and racial composition of those low ranked by promotion boards. Right now, that’s a black box. Without it, the diversity and inclusion efforts could become just another hamster on a wheel project. No one wants to see that, obviously.
So we’re calling on the first State Department CDIO Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley to make it a priority to publicly release the following DGHR data:
–A. 2016-2020 data showing what percentage of FSOs who are selected out are minorities plus breakdown by ethnicity/race;
–B. 2016-2020 data that shows the ethnic/racial/gender breakdown of those who are low ranked by promotion boards.
The 2016-2020 data should span the tenures of Clinton, Kerry, Tillerson and Pompeo. Who knows what we’ll find there but we think it’s a good place to start.
If the State Department’s new CDIO does not take public requests, perhaps our friends on the Hill invested in advancing equality at our oldest executive agency can help pry this data from Foggy Bottom’s cold lock box over at DGHR. Best if it happens this year, please, we may not be around far, far into the future.