US Diplomats Offer Recommendations for Diverse and Inclusive Department of State


WASHINGTON, D.C.—February 26, 2021—The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS) and Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security (WCAPS) shared recommendations with Secretary of State Antony Blinken to help realize his goal to “invest significantly in building a diverse and inclusive State Department.”
The recommendations were informed by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, and Uzra Zeya—all of whom have been confirmed or nominated for diplomatic posts in the Biden Administration. They were joined by career Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Naima Green-Riley for a series of virtual conversations on this topic at Georgetown last year.

Women and people of color continue to be markedly underrepresented at State: though Black, Asian, Latinx and Native American individuals represent 34 percent of the U.S. workforce, they collectively represented less than 18 percent of career diplomats at State in 2019. Further, about 60 percent of Foreign Service generalists, and over 70 percent of Foreign Service specialists, are men.

The suggestions can improve recruitment, retainment and advancement of diverse personnel.


Institutional Innovations

  • The Deputy Secretary of State should establish a committee that includes the Chief Diversity Officer, the Director General of the Foreign Service and Civil Service, the Chief Human Relations Officer, and the head of Foreign Service Institute. The committee would focus on diversity issues and hear discrimination complaints, and should meet at least once a month.
  • We commend the State Department on restarting employee training programs focused on diversity, equity and inclusion, ending a months-long pause instituted under former President Donald Trump. Diversity training should be instituted at all levels of the leadership structure and at each step in the promotion process. For example, diversity training should be included in the introductory course for Foreign Service Officers, in leadership and management training courses, in the diplomatic security training courses, in the DCM course, and in the ambassadors training course.

Recruitment and Promotion

  • The State Department should make an unambiguous commitment that by 2030, its employees will resemble the country that they represent. Diversity should be a key consideration in all new appointments – including political appointments.
  • The recruiting force should comprise of employees from diverse backgrounds, and should seek out and recruit from diverse pools of candidates. The State Department should recruit at schools and universities with diverse student populations, and make it clear how important diversity is to the State Department. It is also critical to monitor strong, diverse candidates as they consider applying for jobs.
  • The number of Rangel, Pickering, & Payne Fellowships should be doubled, specifically bringing the number from 60 to 120 per year.
  • Selection boards overseeing employee promotions should consider at least one woman and one non-white candidate in their pools for each promotion. Promotion processes should ensure that diverse entry-level candidates are supported through the promotion process to reach leadership level. The weight of peer recommendations should be reduced when considering candidates for promotion, or there should be a “blind” process effectively hiding the gender/race of the candidate.
  • Lateral recruitment—a revitalization of the mid-level entry program (non-career appointments for mid-career professionals)—should focus on attracting diverse professionals to the State Department. Although this program already exists, it is lacking support, training, and resources to be successful.

Inclusive Culture

  • Diversity must be promoted across the board, both by senior leaders and those in the mid-ranks.
  • The State Department must invest in mentorship. Officers need mentorship, coaching, and encouragement to succeed. Encourage leaders to mentor junior employees with diverse backgrounds.
  • Enforce a zero-tolerance policy for harassment and bias, both words and actions. Mid-level officers must be encouraged to speak out if they see injustices.
  • Create a culture that encourages employees to have frank discussions about implicit bias. Engage in conversations with the dominant power group to make them understand their own biases.
  • Investigate issues that make life more difficult for Foreign Service Officers, especially women/minorities, including unaccompanied assignments, lack of employment opportunities for spouses, and difficulties obtaining visas for same-sex partners, and put more effort into easing these burdens.


The letter is signed by:

Ambassador Melanne Verveer, Executive Director, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security

Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, Founder and Executive Director, Women of Color Advancing Peace, Security and Conflict Transformation (WCAPS)

Media Contact
Evelyn Garrity

Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace & Security seeks to promote a more stable, peaceful, and just world by focusing on the important role women play in preventing conflict and building peace, growing economies, and addressing global threats like climate change and violent extremism. We engage in rigorous research, host global convenings, advance strategic partnerships, and nurture the next generation of leaders. Housed within the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown, the Institute is headed by the former U.S. Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, Melanne Verveer.