The Foreign Service Journal, November 2004

T wo articles in the June issue of the Foreign Service Journal were particularly compelling reading: Bob Guldin’s “Not Quite Family: ‘Members of Household’ at State” and Shawn Dorman’s “Special Report: New Hires and the Foreign Service.” I commend AFSA and the Journal for paying attention to the issues faced by Foreign Service per- sonnel as they seek to balance their personal and professional lives. But the situation depicted in both articles speaks eloquently to why I, and many other Civil Service employees (gay and straight), whose families include Members of Household, have ruled out pursuing a Foreign Service career for the foreseeable future. Let me explain. I joined USAID as a Presidential Management Intern in 1998 and have since received tenure as a Civil Service employee. I thoroughly enjoy my work and believe I’ve been able to give back as much as I have gained (as evidenced by two administrator-level awards I received in 2001: a Superior Honor Award and the Equal Employment Opportunity Award). Now a GS-14, I have seriously con- sidered joining the New Entry Professional Program — USAID’s intake program into the Foreign Service — at the FS-4 level (even though I would actually take a pay cut), or waiting for a mid-career con- version opportunity. In fact, several USAID mission directors and other highly experienced senior Foreign Service officers have encouraged me to join the Foreign Service. From my discussions with them and many other people of varied backgrounds within USAID, State and the Foreign Commercial Service (going all the way up to senior offi- cers), a pervasive theme has emerged: the importance of contentment in one’s personal life within the fishbowl environment of the Foreign Service. Elements that are helpful in this regard include: the assurance that one’s agency treats all employees fair- ly; the support of a spouse or partner (same or opposite sex) and children; and effective coping and support mechanisms both to deal with crises and chronic stress and to avoid self- destructive behavior (e.g., alco- holism). Yet, these resources for maintain- ing a healthy lifestyle are far more available to some members of the Foreign Service and their families than others. For example, married employees posted to accompanied posts are able to manage these work- induced stresses by taking their fami- ly (and children, when schooling is available) to post. They have their families, the core of most people’s support mechanisms, with them at virtually no cost to themselves. In contrast, as a single employee, I would have to assume massive out-of- pocket costs to bring a domestic part- ner with me to post, and we would find far less institutional and financial support there than our married col- leagues enjoy. Through the Members of Household policy and other initia- tives, the traditional “big four” foreign affairs agencies (State, USAID, Foreign Commercial Service, Foreign Agricultural Service) are making real progress in creating workplaces that treat all employees fairly. But there is still a long way to go, as the June arti- cles make clear. This is particularly true for gay couples, but all single Foreign Service employees, gay or straight, have to take these disparities into account as they pursue their careers. Toward a Meaningful MOH Policy As a longtime member of Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies, I know first-hand how hard AFSA has worked to bring the MOH policy to life and to make it as broad and mean- ingful as possible. Such efforts go all the way back to former AFSA President Marshall Adair’s letter of Resources for maintaining a healthy lifestyle are far more available to some members of the Foreign Service and their families than others. Achieving Full Diversity in the Foreign Service B Y A JIT J OSHI N O V E M B E R 2 0 0 4 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 13 S PEAKING O UT w