The Foreign Service Journal - July/August 2017
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dren were small, there was a lot of stigma attached—especially

for female officers—to leaving the office at the end of the day to

pick up your children from day care (these were the days before

Diplotots). We weren’t considered “serious” about our work.

My first child was born while we were in Bangkok. Being a

pregnant political officer who wanted time off was enough of

a shock for my colleagues in the section; but when I needed to

extend my time off by a little bit longer, I found out that there

were back-channel communications between the political

counselor and the office director in Washington about my “lack

of seriousness” about my job.

Amb. Amy Hyatt:

My biggest work-life challenge was dur-

ing an ordered departure in Cairo, where I was the manage-

ment counselor. I was a single mom and had to put my teenage

daughter on a plane to the States without me. I had no family in

the States to send her to, but relied on dear friends to meet her

at the airport and take care of her, while I focused on helping the

embassy deal with the evacuation. It was the toughest thing I

had to do as a parent in the Foreign Service.

Amb. Jennifer Zimdahl Galt:

I was faced with the choice

of staying at a post with a toxic work environment or curtailing

at the risk of interrupting my children’s high school education.

After many lengthy family discussions, I chose to curtail. It was

the first time in my career that I could not get along with a super-

visor, in this case the ambassador. I had not been his choice for

the position, and he resented my presence from day one and

made no effort to pretend otherwise. Our conflict had nothing

to do with our respective genders—my predecessor had been

a woman with whom he got along famously. During our family

discussions, it also came out that neither of my children was

altogether happy with the school, so while they weren’t happy to

move three years in a row, they didn’t mind leaving the school.

Somehow things always work out.


Have you ever been subject to harassment or discrimina-

tion; and, if so, how did you handle it?

Amb. Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley:

Sexual harassment,

yes. My generation was taught to be careful of male egos (and

power), so I generally did the usual and laughed it off, avoided

the person where I could or made excuses to reject the advances.

There was one occasion in the department when a boss touched

me and I told him if he did it again, I’d knock the s--- out of him.

He did not repeat it, but he did try to get me to curtail from the


On another occasion it happened at the National Security

Council. Initially I parried the advance from a senior member of

Ambassador Deborah Malac

Deborah Malac joined the Foreign Ser-

vice in 1981. She has served in a variety

of positions in Washington, D.C., Africa

and Southeast Asia. From 2012 to 2015

she served as U.S. ambassador to the

Republic of Liberia; she has been U.S. ambassador to the

Republic of Uganda since February 2016. Amb. Malac is

married with three grown children.

Ambassador Jennifer Zimdahl Galt

Jennifer Zimdahl Galt was sworn in as

ambassador to Mongolia in September

2015. A career member of the Senior For-

eign Service, Amb. Galt served previously

as principal officer in Guangzhou. She

has also served in Belgrade, Taipei, Mumbai, Beijing,

Shanghai and at the U.S. Mission to NATO in Brussels, as

well as in Washington, D.C. She holds master’s degrees

from the National Defense University and the Johns

Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Amb. Galt is married to writer Fritz Galt, and they have a

son and a daughter, both in college.

Ambassador Erica Barks-Ruggles

Erica Barks-Ruggles is U.S. ambassador

to the Republic of Rwanda. She and her

tandem husband are career Foreign Ser-

vice officers. She previously served as U.S.

consul general in Cape Town, as deputy to

the United States Permanent Representative to the United

Nations, and as deputy assistant secretary for Democracy,

Human Rights and Labor. Amb. Barks-Ruggles served

previously at the National Security Council, as a visiting

fellow at the Brookings Institution and as an international

affairs fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. She has

also been posted to Norway and India.

Her mantras:

Always ask “What is the right thing to

do?” and formulate policy and management around

that. Never just do what is expedient, easy, uncontrover-

sial or cheaper; do what is right.


Always be courageous in standing up for your

beliefs and values, and in supporting your team.