For Diplomacy That Looks Like the United States, Civil Society Must Lead by Example

We both served in senior positions in government and on political campaigns. We not only know what it feels like to be the only two people of color in a roomful of middle-aged white men but have seen—up close, in real time—how a lack of diversity can lead to flawed policies and missed opportunities.

Unfortunately, a problem that has persisted in Democratic and Republican administrations is getting worse. At the State Department, in particular, many career foreign service officers have retired or left in frustration; pushed aside by a new administration which has repeatedly expressed skepticism—bordering on hostility—toward career civil servants. The number of ambassadors of color and/or who are women has dropped significantly since the 1990s. Too many senior foreign service officers have been pushed aside and made to do relatively junior administrative tasks—such as processing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

To improve U.S. foreign policy decision-making and make our country more secure, we need a State Department and a national security workforce that is more diverse. Our diplomacy should look less like the cast of Mad Men and more like today’s America.

The Open Society Foundations had this goal in mind when, last month, we partnered with Vestige Strategies to launch a new report: Advancing Diversity and Inclusion in the Foreign Policy Sector. The report’s recommendations are concrete and actionable, and the goal is to draw from one of the United States’ greatest resources—its vast and interlocking network of diverse communities—to strengthen U.S. diplomacy.

Here is an issue where civil society can—and must—lead the way. Think tanks, NGOs, grassroots organizations—these are the incubators for the policy and management experts of the future; these are the places where policy knowledge and management skills are developed, where promising young people learn how to be effective public servants. We believe that if civil society leadership looks like America, then government leadership will follow.

It’s common sense for civil society groups to address their own lack of diversity. Unfortunately, however, research has shown that they, too, are far from perfect in this respect. Precious little information exists, for example, on workforce and senior leadership diversity among U.S. international affairs think tanks. What we can tell you from our experience, though, is that think tank roundtables and panel discussions often mirror the inclusion deficit in government. Few such events are led by women of color or acknowledge racial or ethnic identities in what makes up their diversity and inclusion programming.  

Thankfully, addressing these shortcomings will not require the reinvention of the wheel. Members of the private sector are beginning to embrace such efforts—not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because they realize that increasing diversity is an efficient way to maximize profits. In fact, according to a McKinsey & Company report, companies in the top 25 percent for ethnic and cultural diversity on executive teams are 33 percent more likely to have industry-leading profitability.

So, what does the Advancing Diversity and Inclusion in the Foreign Policy Sector report recommend to increase diversity within civil society organizations? Among other ideas, it suggests:

  • implementing training on the harms of bias—both conscious and unconscious—for all staff at international affairs think tanks and NGOs; 
  • building a diverse and inclusive speakers bureau for foreign policy experts;
  • developing a tracking mechanism to monitor panelist, presenter, and awardee demographics for the events and policy discussions convened by civil society;
  • recruiting and preparing diverse senior staff to lead foreign policy organizations; and
  • collaborating across foreign policy institutions to create a standard culture for diversity and inclusion within the field.

By advancing these objectives, civil society can empower a diverse pool of experts to make sure that the progress made on the issue of diversity in recent decades is not reversed, while also improving cultural competency for U.S. foreign policy in the future. The United States—and, indeed, the world—is more diverse and interconnected than ever; it’s time for America’s foreign policy establishment to catch up.

Learn More:

9 Comments

Hide

I along with some fellow group members have speech impediments and face discrimination on many bases. I retired from the Navy as a top-notch sailor, passed all requirements for OSC including passing written exams and completing all goals and requirements. I made E-6 around 1983 and even a Combat Action Ribbon which very few in my rate had apoximentlyx 113 years and seeing all others get promoted I never was and in 1995 I retired with honours and entered private life. While others were able to go into high paying positond\s I've had to scrape by doing odd low paying positions such as delivering papers,

The story is quite complicated and few people truly understand It is so sad that but for the use of negro slaves for manual labor 100's of years ago, the residual effect of which prompts concern with "diversity" today, is but another term to talk about race without talking about race. That we are talking about events that has been a topical subject of concern over hundreds of years is in itself something of significance. That also should tell us something about the story. After years of study, I will try to reduce the story in one sentence the inherent contradiction of which will be obvious: Yes!- we must have and need slaves but No!- we don't want Negroes.

compassions sincères et respect pour votre attitude qui reste un exemple de dignité

"Comments will appear once they have been approved by a moderator"

Pardon me. You invited me to speak freely. I did. But I did not know I am free to speak if and only if you approve of what I have to say.. What's the point?. .

I have a granddaughter, midteens, leaning toward the diplomatic corps

Obviously, no one is guarding the guards, and same disparities persist.

Message to George Soros

Dear George, back when you were an up and coming idealistic survivor who read the works of Karl Popper and hatched your reflexivity theories, you did the world a great service by pioneering those methods against the evil tyranny of the Soviet Union. Your work of funding in Hungary and Poland's Solidarity movement -- workers movements -- were impossible for the Soviets to counter. It worked, the Soviet Union collapsed and the world was better off for it. Thanks.

BUT TODAY, you're applying the same principles to everywhere, doing social engineering, shoving people against people. Honestly, what you're doing today is no longer noble like what you used to do. Now there's an ugly social engineering quality to it. You puppeteer people into carrying out forced agendas. It is not natural and it is nasty. Look at Sweden, Germany, Italy. Why are you banned in Hungary? Those migrants from the concocted wars in the Middle East are raping, stealing, setting cars on fire. Does that serve your agenda Mr. Soros? I think it does. Disrupting is what you're doing (and what you did in Eastern Europe in the 80s). How do you profit from that? How does humanity profit from that?

My reading of people is they don't like to be social engineered. That's what the Nazis did. That's what the Bolsheviks did. It is awful to be a human being somewhere with your life and family and have some organization shoving people against you in some kind of grandiose puppet show. Nobody likes it.

I think you should re-train your Open Society Foundation toward 1. Education. 2. Health care. 3. Quality of life. Let the religious, racial, cultural chips fall where they may. Do good for all. Stop the social engineering. What you started out doing for good (thanks) seems to have taken a nasty turn. I want to think you're brilliant and good for the world. I think you used to be, but I don't think you are anymore.

Yours truly,

Stuart Alan Becker
CEO Lyrical Training
training people in Myanmar (Hotels, Schools, Government)

Reports on improved company performance due to gender diversity have been around for some 20 years, and were contradicted subsequently. Studies do not explain causality: does diversity lead to profits or do profitable companies hire more diversity (for a variety of reasons). I have always been suspicious of activists who pretend that a bad man will be promoted over a good woman. I most certainly never did.

i think it is time to ONGS to be active to do something in AMERICA TODAY

Add your voice