Not long before I joined the Foreign Service women officers who married were required to resign. Colleagues told me of foreign service couples seeking to hide their marriage by honeymooning two continents away from their duty assignments only to receive a curt telegram informing the newly married wife that she was reported to be in violation of regulation X in the personnel code and adding that her resignation was expected as soon as possible.
A decade later the larger public still referred to “Our Man in…” when they meant US representation. The idea that diplomats are always or usually men was so pervasive that following the first embassy bombing in Beirut on 18 April 1983 the American women diplomats who served in Lebanon felt compelled to write a letter protesting news articles expressing sympathy for the Beirut diplomats but depicting them entirely as men in the process. They pointed out that women had also lost their lives in the attack.
It is therefore with more than a sense of irony that a scholarship which seeks to encourage underrepresented groups into the Foreign Service has helped salvage some of the dwindling numbers at the State Department. Citing the need for cuts in his department Secretary Tillerson suspended two classes of new Foreign Service officers known as A 100 classes. However they have just been reinstated in part due to the injustice the cuts would have done to members of the class who were recipients of two scholarship programs Pickering and Rangel. Both scholarships offer young people from underrepresented groups a shot at a foreign service career following a two year graduate degree. University leaders, congress and the scholars themselves raised an outcry over the suspension of the classes and now the hiring freeze has been rescinded for the entire cohort – not just the scholars. Decades ago the Foreign Service was reluctant to welcome women and minorities and now women and minorities have helped secure the future of the Foreign Service.
Guest post by Carol Graham, Recruitment Committee Chair. Carol Graham was the first woman to run the US UK Fulbright Commission and now works in a number of international education roles.