The Foreign Service Journal, June 2022

36 JUNE 2022 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL The Foreign Agricultural Service has launched a pathbreaking initiative to bring diversity to its ranks. BY VAL ER I E BROWN Valerie Brown, who currently serves in Dubai as the regional agricultural counselor, was instrumental in creating the USDA-FAS Diversity Fellowship Program. She continues to collaborate with the FAS Office of Civil Rights on diversity and inclusion pro- grams. During graduate studies in agricultural economics, she worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Sri Lanka. She joined FAS in 1995 as a civil servant and entered the Foreign Service in 2001. She has served in London, Mexico City, Taipei, Shanghai and, most recently, in Washington, D.C., as the senior director of Asia operations at USDA. She recently received her life coaching certification, which she utilizes to empower women through the group she co-founded, “Real Women Wine.” “D iversity” is often a moral box to check, a brand state- ment, a nice addition to a human resources page, but is it ever truly the foun- dational culture? When implemented daily, we see its domino effect. When absorbed, it has mean- ing. When followed through, the word “diversification”—the process of becoming diversified, adding variety—has impact and sustainability. It instills trust and establishes accountability; but, most importantly, when that word is applied, it has power. “But … it is when that word is applied that it has power.” There could be no truer statement. I wrote those words almost two years ago for The Foreign Service Journal article I penned, “Diver- sification in the Foreign Agricultural Service” (October 2020). What a difference two years can make. Since then, the world has experienced such inexplicable lows; but we are resilient, we adapt, and we remain steadfast because we realize that no storm lasts for an eternity. In that 2020 article, I briefly shared bits and pieces of my journey as the first African American woman to sit for the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service’s Foreign Service Exam in the fall of 2000. At that time, there was only one African American woman in our Foreign Service, Mattie Sharpless. Ambassador Sharpless was a pioneer and groundbreaker, but sadly she was it, my one and only role model. And the question that I would ask of others over my career was: “Why?” Why in the year 2000, a half-century after the American Civil Rights Movement, were we, and others, not better represented in our diplomatic corps? Why weren’t more of us the face of The FAS Diversity Fellowship Answers “WhyNot?” FOCUS A PROGRESS REPORT ON DIVERSITY