14 SEPTEMBER 2023 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL LETTERS-PLUS New State Department Diversity Data Exposes Challenges and Opportunities BY ELLICE HUANG, THOMAS SCHERER, VIC MARSH, AND DAN SPOKOJNY RESPONSE TO JULY-AUGUST 2023 FOCUS ARTICLE, “DEIA IS NO LONGER JUST ‘NICE TO HAVE’” Ellice Huang is the operations executive at fp21 and a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. Thomas Leo Scherer is the research director at fp21 and an academic practitioner. Vic Marsh is a researcher at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and a former econ track FSO (2007-2015). Dan Spokojny, a former FSO, is the CEO of fp21 and is writing a doctoral dissertation on foreign policy expertise. We are writing in response to “DEIA Is No Longer Just ‘Nice to Have’” by Ambassador Gina AbercrombieWinstanley in the July-August 2023 FSJ. The State Department’s first Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) Strategic Plan states: “We need to be transparent in our efforts. This means transparency as we analyze and report DEIA-related data and trends.” The very first goal in the strategy is for the department to broaden the availability and analysis of demographic data to support an evidence-based approach to improving our diplomatic workforce and evaluate progress. A key finding of our own organization’s research into evidence-based solutions for State Department’s workforce challenges is that data is a vital strategic capability. Demographic data is necessary to both diagnose obstacles and create targeted solutions. Transparency creates shared identification of problems, conveys to employees that diversity is an important goal, and creates accountability for progress. The State Department should be commended for releasing demographic baseline numbers this summer, as promised in the FSJ article. That said, the data still leave much to be desired. Only aggregated summaries of the data are presented, and only for the past two years. This makes it nearly impossible to run external analysis of the data or identify trends over time. For example, many officials at State believe they hit a glass ceiling blocking their career progression, but aggregated data cannot expose where people get stuck in the system. Our organization is working to fill this gap by using sophisticated data science tools and archival information to examine representation in American diplomacy. Our data source is the State Department Key Officers of Foreign Service Posts directory, which is a series of documents going back to 1965 that list Foreign Service officers and their positions assigned to each U.S. embassy. Using text-scraping tools, we extracted the names and positions of more than 110,000 key officers—the people who serve as team leaders in embassies. We then used classification tools to identify each officer’s gender and race based on their first and last name. These classification tools are not perfectly accurate, but they provide reasonable estimates. More information can be found in the full report on our website. Our analysis shows that the gender gap among those who lead embassy offices is steadily narrowing but will not completely close until 2040 (see Graph 1). A key finding of our own organization’s research into evidence-based solutions for State Department’s workforce challenges is that data is a vital strategic capability.