Page 40 - Foreign Service Journal - May 2013

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MAY 2013
for women who wield infuence within the organization;
and incomplete talent strategies that fail to give women the
breadth of experience necessary for senior assignments. (It
should also be noted that female candidates with the needed
qualifcations often fail to throw their hats into the ring.)
Te current situation has important implications for State,
where it is clear we have yet to fully utilize the talent of women
in our ranks.
The Strategic Imperative for Gender Diversity
For starters, it is high time we took a cue from the busi-
ness world, which has made maximizing women’s talents
an imperative. Corporations are keenly aware of the need
to recoup their signifcant investment in hiring and training
women by ensuring they retain them. Tey are also interested
in benefting from the superior decisions that research has
shown emerge from diverse organizations, and in developing
sustainable work models for a world in which female partici-
pation in the work force will surely continue to increase.
Tese organizations are also responding to a generational
shift that has seen the coming of age of a younger work force
with difering notions about work and life. Men increasingly
want to play a greater role in the home, and are joining female
colleagues in voicing the need for more fexible workplace
models and more balance.
Interestingly, companies with a large number of female
employees who initially lacked diversity policies are the ones
who have led the charge for creating these new workplace
models. After determining that not having these policies was
sorely hurting their bottom line in terms of high attrition and
low employee engagement, these companies have been at the
forefront of new eforts to carefully unearth the internal factors
that can impede progress by women (as well as other groups)
and develop thoughtful policies to overcome them. In other
Service Act of 1980. Tose eforts have paid dividends in terms
of attracting more diverse candidates, who are then evalu-
ated by Board of Examiner assessors who themselves refect
America’s diversity.
Tanks to these measures, the Foreign Service has nearly
achieved gender parity in terms of new hires. Staf members in
the Ofce of Civil Rights conduct Equal Employment Oppor-
tunity training worldwide and address cases of employment
discrimination, supported by Foreign Service staf in our
embassies, who take on EEO responsibilities as collateral duty.
Our yearly employee evaluations are screened for discrimina-
tory language and our promotion precepts demand compli-
ance with EEO principles.
With these measures in place, it would seem that women
are being evaluated on the basis of merit alone and have a fair
shot at grabbing the brass ring. Yet promotion into the Senior
Foreign Service remains elusive for far too many female FSOs.
In an efort to fnd out why, I applied for an Una Chap-
man Cox Sabbatical Leave Fellowship. My overseas tours had
driven home the extent to which women in other countries
are being held back from achieving their full potential, and my
return to Washington three years ago seemed the ideal time to
research the policies and practices used by American employ-
ers of choice to propel women to the leadership ranks. A far
more complex picture emerged than I had frst imagined.
While it is indisputable that outright discrimination is no
longer tolerated, and that some women appear to have found
the right formula to shatter the glass ceiling, senior leaders of
organizations in nearly all sectors of American life continue
to be predominantly male. Te unimpeded rise to the top of
talented women that many expected has simply not occurred.
Experts in women’s advancement agree that the three
primary factors holding women back are insufcient work-
life integration programs; the dearth of executive sponsors
The Foreign Service has nearly
achieved gender parity in terms
of new hires. But the picture at
the top is less bright.