As the world becomes more interconnected, foreign diplomacy is a vital tool to mitigate challenges between countries and collaborate to solve social, economic, and political issues that millions are facing worldwide. Yet, while Lucile Atcherson was appointed the first woman Diplomatic Officer for the United States in 1923, it still took 50 years for women to make up “less than 10 percent of the diplomatic corps and faced systematic discrimination at the State Department.” Although there has been tremendous international progress for female leadership in public and civil service offices, as of 2015, women comprise 35% of the Foreign Service in the US, including foreign service officers and senior state department specialists. According to the Foreign Service Act (1980), those in the Foreign Service for the United States must be “truly representative of the American people throughout all levels.” Therefore, the question is: Why are women being relegated to the sidelines of critical national security issues when we make up half of the world’s population and are directly impacted by these foreign policies?
According to the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), the various graduate fellowships, internship programs, and entry-level positions’ diversity levels of women are “encouraging.” However, as Foreign Service officers rise through grade levels, the number of women decreases substantially. The AFSA asserts that the attrition rate for female officers can be affected by factors such as management policies, lack of safe and secure environments, and exclusivity of senior opportunities and promotion biases. Women must be included in the foreign policy initiatives of the United States to demonstrate to other international communities our appreciation of diverse cultures, values, and beliefs. Moreover, women bring a unique viewpoint and positionality to global issues such as education, healthcare, job opportunities, and food access. A society’s investment in women positively impacts communal structures such as improved hygiene, immunization, nutrition, and lower infant and maternal mortality rates.
The Women’s Network (TWN) provides collegiate women with the resources, awareness, and roles to tackle barriers without the workforce and amplify women’s voices. Women make up half of the world’s population, and they equally deserve to be represented in a system of foreign service that reflects the United States on the international stage. Therefore, we must raise awareness on the significant impact women make when given the opportunity to be in leadership positions, such as the Foreign Service.