AFSA NEWS 54 SEPTEMBER 2023 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Your Voice Matters: People-Focused Conversations STATE VP VOICE | BY HUI JUN TINA WONG AFSA NEWS Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org | (202)-647-8160 and catalyzing allies across Washington to get things done. Count on me to challenge the Governing Board to think and act creatively to address existing and new lines of effort. I am committed to giving voice to all those who join me to champion this work. We are going to create a broad and inclusive talent pipeline not just in the department, but also in all future AFSA Governing Boards so that our efforts are not a one-off, but institution-making. First, as someone who has been a leader of employee organizations and bureau DEIA councils, I will advocate within AFSA and across our institution on: reforms to our employee evaluation reports (EERs), bidding, and promotions; improvements to our retention policies, ensuring all disadvantaged groups have the support they need to thrive; development of a culture of accountability and stamping out unconscious and conscious biases; data transparency and timely appeals of security clearance-related issues holding groups back; employment opportunities for our spouses, partners, and other family members overseas; and support for our special needs children. Second, my work is a constant, two-way street. Here’s a small sample of what I have been hearing: I am incredibly honored to serve as your elected State vice president and am ready to get right to work for you. I begin this conversation by sharing what this role means to me and our institution. In the 1980s, I was a 6-year-old immigrant traveling to this country from China. We were the last of our family to be reunited with my maternal grandparents after the 1943 repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act. From those first days in the United States, I could never have imagined what I would be doing in 2023. I am now breaking this glass ceiling as the first Asian American female and first-generation American to serve as AFSA State VP. I have served our country for the last 13 years, from confronting the People’s Republic of China’s unfair trade practices to today’s onboarding as AFSA’s chief labor negotiator with State. I can’t wait to break more barriers and give voice to those who have not had the chance to make a positive difference in our institution. In this 2023-2025 term, we have opportunities to push further in every aspect of our work—for progress on diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) across the State Department. I am committed to working within AFSA’s Governing Board, building support in the department, An FSO is forced to pay out of pocket for childcare while taking the foreign affairs counter threat (FACT) course. A female officer who is unable to pump breastmilk in secured spaces overseas is joining forces with AFSA and others across the department to push for policies to authorize lactation devices in those spaces. An FSO acknowledges that, due to the lack of a telework policy, her partner will either have to quit their private sector job or the couple will have to live in different countries. A new employee waits nearly a year—confused, worried, and without knowledge of available resources— to begin their first assignment because no one in the department can provide clarity on the holdup. A Rangel fellow scrambles to find money to pay for graduate school after the department sent an “intent to deny” to the fellow regarding their security clearance status without any explanation for this determination. Concerned about its ramifications, the individual withdraws from the fellowship. And yet another employee, a fluent speaker in the target language, never attempts to apply for an assignment in the first place, deterred by rumors about the drawn-out and humiliating assignment review process. Sadly, these stories are not from years past, but are situations our colleagues have faced over the past 18 months. We are going to tackle every one of these scenarios and more from a policy and labor management perspective. We will leave no stone unturned to come up with creative solutions to improve your situation. Our institution needs you, and we will speak up for you and with you. I will be hosting monthly office hours (both virtual and in person) for any member, employee group, or DEIA council. Contact me at email@example.com or member@ afsa.org with any questions or reflections. Watch my future messages to learn more about these office hours. Through our conversations, let’s fine-tune our approach as we steer our department’s institutional reforms, and, yes, take calculated risks so that we can be more inclusive and equitable in our hiring, retention, and promotions. Let’s trailblaze together. n Our institution needs you, and we will speak up for you and with you.