The Foreign Service Journal, April 2020

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | APRIL 2020 45 Lillian Wahl-Tuco joined the Foreign Service in 2006 and currently serves as the public diplomacy desk officer for Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. Her previ- ous assignments include Paris, Skopje and Sarajevo, and in Washington, D.C., on the Czech desk and on Capitol Hill as a Pearson Fellow on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. A 2019 recipient of the Swanee Hunt Award for Advancing Women in Foreign Policy, she is a co-founder of Balancing Act and a current board member. She is currently serving on the AFSA Governing Board, which she also served on from 2012 to 2014. Part of a Foreign Service–Civil Service tandem, she is the mother of two children. A small group of working mothers pioneered putting work-life balance on the agenda at the State Department. Here’s their story. BY L I L L I AN WAHL-TUCO Institutional Change BalancingAct’s Formula for Driving FOCUS ON CAREER AND PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT N ine years ago, seven frustrated Civil and Foreign Service women sat around a table in Foggy Bot- tom to discuss their struggle to balance work and life responsi- bilities over coffee. One of us who was pregnant said, “There must be a better way. Why do I feel like Eve having Abel at State?” JEFFMOORES Another colleague said, “Why is this balance so hard to strike, and does it have to be?” All of us were working mothers who shared a passion for our work but were struck by the lack of flexible policies and support for working parents at State compared with other government agencies. We vented about inflexible policies, supervisors and offices; shared challenges in arranging leave for pregnancies or nursing between meetings and language classes; and discussed the lack of institutional focus on modernizing State’s policies in these areas. Indeed, the policies, or lack thereof, still seemed to reflect a 1950s organization, not one designed to recruit and retain a diverse 21st-century workforce. Even worse, when we would raise these issues individually with management or the Bureau of Human Resources (now the Bureau for Global Talent Management), we were mostly dis- missed—either told that the Foreign Affairs Manual didn’t allow flexibility on an issue or that “there’s nothing we can do.” Occa- sionally, a sympathetic boss or HR staffer would share our frustra- tions, too; but few advised on how to advocate for real change. Doing nothing was not an option as we watched countless colleagues struggle so much that many ultimately chose to leave the State Department. Nevertheless, we persevered,