The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2019

14 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2019 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL LETTERS-PLUS R etired FSO Richard W. Hoover clearly cares deeply about the Foreign Service as an institu- tion, but his comments about diversity ( FSJ , November 2018, Let- ters) reflect outdated assumptions a nd misperceptions. The idea that “diversity” is quotas that sacrifice professional qual- ity for demographic correctness is Diver- sity Oldthink. So, for that matter, is the assertion that the State Department isn’t serious about diversity and inclusion, and that nothing has changed because our efforts have been inadequate. In fact, over the last several years the department has made significant prog- ress on diversity and inclusion. These are not a “program,” but rather a cultural value that manifests itself in a number of reinforcing efforts to create a workplace in which all employees feel valued and have the same opportunity to succeed in advancing the president’s foreign policy agenda. Through our Diplomats in Residence program and other efforts, we deliber- ately recruit to assemble the most highly talented and highly diverse pool of candidates possible so that we can hire based on merit (as specifically required by the Foreign Service Act) a workforce that reflects America. We are proud of these efforts. But our broader goal is to realize the results-producing collaboration envi- sioned by the Secretary of State’s “One Team, One Mission, One Future” vision. Diversity and inclusion—the intentional effort to attract, recruit, retain and sustain a highly skilled, diverse workforce—is in good part about ensuring that all depart- ment employees feel welcomed and valued. It’s taking care of the team. I completely agree with Mr. Hoover that we should never compromise on or lose “Foreign Service essentials” (patriotism, intelligence, knowledge and character). Diversity/inclusion and high professional standards are not mutually exclusive. Mr. Hoover should see our newest Foreign Service generalists and special- ists, with whom I’ve had the privilege of interacting. They are awesome. Truly. After seeing their enthusiasm, commit- ment and intelligence firsthand, you would walk away, as I have, confident that the Service’s future is in good hands. Mr. Hoover asks: What exactly does diversity bring to the table in terms of achieving optimal foreign policy for- mulation and execution? A lot, actually. Having different perspectives enhances problem-solving; there are organizational studies that show that the more diverse work teams are and the more inclusive a corporate culture is, the happier and more productive these teams will be. More specifically, in the diplomatic context, in addition to doing outstanding work generally , officers from underrepre- sented groups strengthen our diplomatic toolkit. Because we have an increasingly diverse workforce, we have additional Response— Beyond Oldthink on Diversity BY STEVE WALKER, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY, BUREAU OF HUMAN RESOURCES, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE and different perspectives to inform our thinking as we grapple with diplomatic challenges. Here are some quick practical exam- ples off the top of my head to answer Mr. Hoover’s question: • Having LGBT employees or employ- ees with disabilities as part of post’s political section would likely enhance an embassy’s human rights efforts, because their experiences would provide insights on what would be the most effective approach. • During a political section discussion of host-country center-periphery issues, the views of an officer born and raised in rural Appalachia or a small town in Montana might provide insights that would supplement those of officers born, raised and educated in cosmopolitan urban areas. • In countries where it is difficult for men to interact with women, hav- ing female officers enables the embassy to have a broader public diplomacy (PD) reach and to get a fuller and more accurate understanding of political and economic dynamics. Female commer- cial officers could potentially tap into neglected markets that could result in wins for U.S. companies. • Employees who operate in a work- place of civility and respect can devote their time and energy to achieving U.S. objectives rather than dealing with