The “Consensual Straitjacket”: Four Decades of Women in Nuclear Security

Authored by: Heather Hurlbert, Elizabeth Weingarten, Alexandra Stark, et al.

Categories: Statebuilding
Sub-Categories: National Security Forces and Armed Groups, Security Sector Reform (SSR)
Country: United States
Region: North America
Year: 2019
Citation: Hurlbert, Heather, et al. The “Consensual Straitjacket”: Four Decades of Women in Nuclear Security. New America, 2019.

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While women have been working in the nuclear policy field at leadership levels for decades, the space is still overwhelmingly white and male. For this study, New America interviewed 23 women who have worked at senior levels in the nuclear, arms control, and non-proliferation fields, their careers ranging from the 1970s to the present day. This report explores the gender dynamics surrounding hierarchy, language, and ideology, and how women working in these fields responded personally and professionally. It documents and analyzes the “gender tax” facing women in nuclear policy, considers how gender diversity affects policymaking, and explores the ways in which the more hyper-traditional subfields respond to new ideas—creating what former Under Secretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy calls a “consensual straitjacket” in which gender and substantive taxes combine to restrict innovation.