Cracking the Glass Ceiling: A Conversation with Foreign Service Women
Despite their education and background, women Foreign Service Officers in the 1950s and 60s faced discrimination and were often treated like second-class citizens. Even in the late 1960s, some ambassadors would object to a woman being posted to their embassies while female FSOs were sometimes expected to act as social secretary to the Ambassador’s wife. Female Foreign Service Officers were asked to resign once they got married, even though there was no written regulation that obliged them to do so. It was only with persistent complaints and a few lawsuits that the system finally began to change in the early 1970s.
To commemorate Women’s History Month, ADST, in conjunction with Executive Women at State, convened a panel March 30, 2015 with four Foreign Service pioneers to share their stories about overcoming challenges to rise to the top, as well as their advice on how to keep moving forward.
Phyllis Oakley was the “’wife of’ for sixteen years,” specifically to FSO Robert Oakley from the moment they wed until 1974. When she resigned from the Service in 1958, “it never occurred to me to challenge the Department on its personnel policies.” She was able to apply for re-entrance to the Foreign Service in 1974 and quickly rose through the ranks of the State Department, beginning in the Bureau for International Organizations. She retired in 1999, having served as the Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Research (INR).
Elinor Constable joined the Foreign Service in 1957 and met her future husband in A-100, the orientation class for new FSOs; she was then asked to resign when they married. She refused. She later resigned when they had children, then rejoined the Service “kicking and screaming,” in 1974. She reluctantly joined the Alison Palmer case because “for me to argue that the Department was discriminating against me as an individual was ridiculous.” She served not only as Ambassador to Kenya from 1986 to 1989 but also as the first woman Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Economic Bureau and as Assistant Secretary in OES.
Stephanie Kinney passed the Foreign Service exam in 1971 but was unable to join because of a hiring freeze at USIA. When her husband Doug went through A-100, she took the “Wives Seminar.” She was part of the first generation where for the first time any comment or review of their activities could not be cited in their husbands’ Officer Evaluation Reports. She became an FSO in 1976; she is a former Senior Foreign Service Officer and winner of the Department of State’s Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) Harriman Award for her leadership role in creating the Department’s Family Liaison Office (FLO). She asserts that when advocating for change, it is important to frame the issue as an institutional one to get more buy-in, rather than advocating from a single interest group perspective.
Eileen Malloy (Moderator) joined the Foreign Service in 1978, after the Palmer case had been decided. However, after the Department found out that her husband would not be coming with her immediately, they broke her initial assignment to Jamaica and reassigned her to London, without asking her. As she notes in her ADST history, “There was still very much this kind of paternalistic attitude towards female officers.” She was posted twice in the USSR, the second time as Chief of the Arms Control Implementation Unit. She served as Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan from 1994-1997, Deputy Assistant Secretary in EUR from 1997-1999, and Consul General in Sydney, Australia from 2001-2004. She is also an ADST Board member. In her remarks, she noted how far the Department has come in tackling such issues and noted that from her perspective the biggest challenge facing the Department with regard to women today is retention.
Asked about what challenges still persist for women today, panelists said that the evaluation process still varied for men and women and noted that it is more important to have a champion at the top, while the gender of that champion is not as crucial. They also advised that it was not necessary for women to act like a man to get ahead, but rather women should be themselves, use their strengths, and do a good job.
You can read the entire
. You can also read more about the lawsuit on sexual discrimination filed by Alison Palmer.
“In my day it was felt that we were not going to make waves”
Lycia Coble Sibilla: The Executive Women at State recently met with HR. We shared statistics on the advancement of women here at the State Department. We learned that from about 1994 to 2014 there were more women here at State in every senior level and mid-level grade. For example in 1994, 24% of the DCMs [Deputy Chiefs of Mission] were women and today 29% are. In 1994 only 10% of women were Chiefs of Mission and today 35% hold top spots at our missions overseas. I am delighted that we will hear the stories on how we achieved some of that success today, and our panelist’s suggestions on how to keep moving forward….
Phyllis Oakley: Well, as Elizabeth Taylor said to her husbands, I won’t keep you long. You know in 1957 and 1958 I did not fight having to resign when my husband and I decided to marry, and both of us studied French. He was sent from Washington to Nice where the State Department used to keep their French school. That was closed needless to say. From Nice he was sent immediately to Khartoum where they spoke English and Arabic. One does kind of wonder about that. I had to resign. I went home to St. Louis to get ready to fly out to see him.
A nice person in personnel did suggest that they would help me arrange a proxy marriage if I wanted to do that. That was their contribution. I declined. It didn’t seem to me marrying Bob in such exotic circumstances and going to Khartoum for our first two years that I was really giving up much of the adventure of the Foreign Service. Our arrangement was that we would always be a partnership.
In those days in the late 50’s nice girls didn’t make waves. All of this brings me to what I see as the greatest difference for women and in women from that period of the 50’s and 60’s and now, and it is today’s women are confident young women who were extremely well educated, and they are not going to take restrictions or discouragement or guff from anyone. In my day it was kind of felt that we were not going to make waves….
The statement was always said to me over and over ad nauseum: “We are just getting two for the price of one.” I cannot tell you how much I hate that saying. But since that time the world has changed, and you really have to realize how drastically it has changed. Vietnam and the protests against the war, civil rights, gays and women’s lib. This society has really transformed itself….
None of the progress that women have made in the State Department or other areas of society would have happened without the threat of lawsuits and bringing the lawsuits that were successful. I don’t know of many societies that have changed as much as we have but the law and the willingness of people to bring those lawsuits was what it was all about.
When I re-entered the Foreign Service in 1974 we were coming back from Beirut, and I generally had support among all of the friends of our age. People who had known me and had seen me in various posts and activities that I had done.
What I did find was that occasionally older men would make remarks close to me so that I could overhear them. Things like “What does she think she is?” “Why is she coming back into the Foreign Service?” and what not. You just learn to ignore it and go on. In general I found most of the people with whom I worked to be extremely helpful and helpful to me because I knew about all of the places we lived and the political situation and various things like that.
When I came back into the Foreign Service and somebody said, “What tags do you want on that telegram?” I said, “What are tags?” I had no idea of the mechanics of a lot of this. Now I think a lot of us sitting here have had our share of small firsts. My first was I was called up to be a staff assistant on the seventh floor [where the Secretary and others have their offices]….It was very much along the military model. The staff aides were generals we called up and these were the promising young people. They wanted to get them exposure on the seventh floor and help groom them and push them up.
In the summer of 1976 because we were celebrating a lot [for the Bicentennial], I was asked to go up on the seventh floor as the staff assistant for Phil Habib….He had headed the political section out in Saigon when my husband was there, and he considered Bob one of his boys.
Well, there I was working on a Sunday morning spreading out his traffic….He looked up at me and he smiled and he said, “Why aren’t you home fixing breakfast for your husband?” Now do you think anybody could get away with that today? But you know, what can I say? I just kind of laughed and went on telling him what he had to do….
What helped in those days for me to work where Bob was, was the disparity in our ranks. Because I had been out for 16 years and he had moved up the ladder and I was lower. It was easier to find me a job. It would have been much more difficult of course if my assignment had come first and then he tried to follow.
I was the first woman spokesman at the State Department. I don’t think any of you would ever think about the fact whether a spokesman for any U.S. Government agency was a man or a woman. It is just not an issue anymore. But I had been the Afghan desk officer. In those days I had been on the McNeil-Lehrer news program on the fifth anniversary of the Soviet invasion. [Secretary of State] George Shultz was on vacation in California. He happened to see it and called me up. Six months later when they needed a spokesman he remembered.
This supports our long-held maxim that what happens to you in the Foreign Service depends on three things: who you know, what you know, and just plain luck. Anyway that was, in a sense, my real breakthrough. A lot of things happened after that. When we got to Islamabad in 1988 and Bob was named Ambassador right after Arnie Raphel was killed, that embassy was the most integrated embassy I have ever seen. The DCM was married to the assistant PAO [Public Affairs Officer]. The budget and fiscal officer was married to the economic officer. And it was just like that throughout and to me it was just a great mark of change.
Is it a perfect system? Do things work perfectly? Of course not. The assignment process has gotten more difficult with security concerns and short tours and the various things like that. It is different but it is still very complicated. So let me just end by saying “You have come a long way, Baby!”
Eileen Malloy: Now we are going to ask Elinor Constable to share her experiences with us.
“They just imposed this discriminatory policy as a kind of a custom”
Elinor Constable: Oh I loved that, and there were some stories in there that I had never heard before. Phyllis and I share a lot of things. My husband succeeded Bob Oakley as Ambassador to Zaire. My husband was DCM at Islamabad. We were both Assistant Secretaries of State together under Tim Wirth so our journey ended up in a lot of the same places. It did start out a little bit differently.
Phyllis said in those days we were taught that we shouldn’t make waves, and you know we could get pushed around. Well, that may have been what we were taught but it wasn’t what I did. Phyllis knows me well enough to know, and I don’t know where it came from but all you had to do was tell me that I couldn’t do something. Don’t every say that to me.
Now I hadn’t even wanted to come into the Foreign Service, which probably helped because I wasn’t nervous about it. It wasn’t going to be my life. I really didn’t care. I wanted to go to Harvard but I didn’t get in because they weren’t taking women in the program I applied to. So I passed my Foreign Service exam and went to my first day of my A-100 course, which in those days was a very long course — I think it was three months. I sat down next to this man. I took one look at him, I am sorry this is true, and fell in love with him at first sight. So career, everything out the window. This is the man for me. It took about a year for him to come around. But then he proposed. Wow, I was just on Cloud Nine.
Well, then personnel called me in and congratulated me, and I was touched. Isn’t that nice of them? Then they said, “When do you plan to resign?” I said, “Actually I don’t.” That is what I said, “I don’t.”
“You what? You have to resign.”
“Well, make me.” This is how it went. “Make me. You gonna hold a gun to my head? You gonna forge my signature? You gonna fire me?” They didn’t, long story short, but what was even more interesting, there was nothing in writing. Because I asked to see the regulation. I asked to see the policy. I asked to see something just out of curiosity. Nothing. They just imposed this discriminatory policy as a kind of a custom.
I like to think what I did changed things for some other women. I know it did for some because a friend of mine got married a short time after that and was not asked to resign. I wonder if it changed things permanently. Who knows? In any case I went on my honeymoon and came back to work and then of course I got pregnant. That was off the road because believe this, there was no maternity leave. Period, for anybody.
So I resigned and went overseas with my husband as a Foreign Service spouse. Our first post was a two-man, or as we would say today, a two-person, post in rural Spain. There were no spouse issues at that post because it was so small. The principal officer’s wife was a friend and a delight and all that. What I did find there was a true epiphany. I hated it. I just hated it. One day I said, OK, you have got three choices sister. You can go home. I could have gone home. Or you can stay and whine, or you can figure out some way to like this place. I decided the third was probably the best approach. That stayed with me for the rest of my life no matter where I was or what the situation was. It is really about the love, the friends the work, and much less about the place. Although the place can be fun.
Then we went to Central America to our first embassy. Oh boy. Then it hit me full in the face. What is the Foreign Service officer’s spouse supposed to do? You are supposed to do what the boss’ wife tells you to do, like the military. Since my husband was a very junior officer, that made me a very junior wife. No way as you can imagine. In a way the first thing that happened to me was a help because it was so outrageous. We had moved to our house without furniture. In those days you took your stuff with you but it took forever to arrive. We had a sofa, a crib for the baby, a bed for the other kid, a bed for us and that is about it. No phone, no car.
A couple of women came to call on me and said, “Congratulations.” I thought what for? Phyllis knows this story. “You have just been elected as Chairwoman of the Tea Committee of the Voluntary Dames of Tegucigalpa”
“Don’t worry. All you have to do is tea for 50 women once a month.”
“What?” It took awhile but finally I persuaded them to let me use their phone. I called the president of the Voluntary Dames of Tegucigalpa. By then I was bilingual in Spanish and I told her in Spanish — and I am afraid I did not use very nice language by the way – that I would not chair her committee and I would not join her organization if this is the way they operated. One of the women said, “You can’t do that.” I said, “I just did.”…
“The State Department wants you back”
Now we had to disarm the Ambassador’s wife. I had a job teaching at the university. I did a lot of other stuff down there too. I loved Honduras. None of the fast stuff except for parties. A lot of parties. Again this is pretty old fashioned, but I didn’t think a diplomat’s wife should take a salary out of a really poor country. So I planned to donate it back. My husband came home one day and he said guess what.” “Uh oh, what?”
“The Ambassador’s wife is interested in the charity that you were going to give your money to.” Oh, lay one on. So I went to call on her. I said, “I have a few thousand dollars here. I know this is small change. I wanted to give it to this charity but you might want to do it in the name of the American Women’s Club.”…After that I was golden….
I came back to Washington and I…discovered that I wanted to go back to work and have a career. And I did. Then in 1968, we were posted to Islamabad. I had to quit. I am sorry, too….I had to quit and go with my husband and three children. I will admit…I did not play well. I got very frustrated. Probably the worst thing I ever did was to leave a party that we were giving before the party and go to night clubs with some guys. I did that.
It was bad and when I came back to Washington in ’71. I told my husband I am not going through that again. I resumed my career. He was a very clever guy. You must know from the Tegucigalpa incident, so he came home one day waving this pink sheet of paper saying, “The State Department wants you back.”
“Well, I don’t want to go back.”…He said, “Well why don’t you come back? You can always quit if you don’t like it.” That was sort of smart of him, actually.
So I did come back. One thing after another. I was a GS-13. I was brought in as an FS-05. I should have been brought in as a 04 but you can’t grieve your terms of employment. I tried to get a job in admin….They needed help anywhere and I liked personnel and budget and management and all that stuff. I volunteered. I could not get a job. Old boy’s network. I applied for the most ridiculous assignments — anything.
So I said, OK, I will go back to economics. So let’s get an economic job. Well, I had to be in the economic cone. I had to be in the economic cone, so OK, fine. I will be in the economic cone, but you have to take the six-month economic course to get into the cone. Now I am on to something. To get into the course, you had to be in the cone. To get into the cone –
The old lions don’t say no to me. I called out all the people who picked people for the course, and I got in. I studied really hard. I was always good at memorizing stuff and handing it back in a test. The Department was always in awe of people who got high grades in that course….It was a killer course. In six months you got the equivalent of a Masters in economics.
I came back to the Department and the rest is sort of history. I had a wonderful time. I had some good bosses and some bad bosses. One of my bosses, by the way was Brad Bishop, the guy who murdered his family. I didn’t have a clue. He was perfectly normal to me. Ever since I have always said to myself you can’t really tell what people are like….
I wanted a tandem assignment. Those were tough to come by but I was able to negotiate a transfer through USAID and had a wonderful time. I loved Pakistan. On that tour I behaved myself because I got to work, which was a privilege. My husband was DCM and I really didn’t want to make waves for him.
I was called back to Washington to take another job in the Economic bureau and was having a fine time when around 1980 or ’79…, a new assistant secretary called me up to his office to offer me another job. I suddenly got very nervous because the Carter administration had a policy that every bureau had to have at least one woman DAS [Deputy Assistant Secretary]. Now this is not smart. I don’t think it was smart then and I don’t think it would be smart now….
So I went into his office and there was a token job in the bureau that a woman had. It is a good job today, but it was token then. I was sure he was going to offer me that. But he didn’t. He offered me the plum job in the economic bureau. Whoa. I will have to get back to you. Does anybody here know Deane Hinton? Legendary guy. Deane reared back in his chair and I will not quote him word for word. But he said, “Elinor, you are a competent woman.” Bunch of curse words. “If you don’t take this job, they are going to shove an incompetent blankety-blank down my throat.” I thought, OK, that is a pretty good way to talk me into taking a job. So I did and had a wonderful time….
I only want to share two quick things about Kenya….I was called Madame Ambassador. I didn’t like the title. I was called Ambassador, and I was the first woman American ambassador in Kenya; there have been a lot since. The navy used to come to Mombasa to use it as a liberty port. I would fly down and take a helicopter out to these aircraft carriers. What a thrill. My father was a naval officer and wasn’t allowed to see this.
Go down the red carpet, tour it and then go down and have lunch with the admiral. I walk into the admiral’s mess and there would be a rose on my plate. Now I still have trouble explaining to people why this is not appropriate. So I had a policy. If there was a rose on my plate I made these guys talk to me. All men, about women in combat. In the 80’s that was a hot issue. If no rose, no argument….They couldn’t argue with me. I was the Ambassador.….
“This was not going to go well if it got framed as a women’s issue”
Stephanie Kinney: I came along in the early 70’s having discovered the Foreign Service by what means, I have no recollection, in a little town in central Florida called Winterhaven. We learned how to write research papers [in high school] by having a really dumb theme, the vocation of my choice….I chose to look into the Foreign Service. My conclusion, which I parroted back some years later, was that and so if you are a young woman who wants to have both a career and a family, it would appear that the Foreign Service is not for you. The only way to rise is to marry a successful officer….
The famous Macomber report in reforms as they were known in 1970 declared something astounding and unusual. Married women would be allowed to take the exam and come into the Foreign Service. My husband and I were both in Cambridge at the time. He had wanted to be a Foreign Service officer since he was 14….
In 1971 I was told by the Board of Examiners that I was the second married woman to have taken the exam and they put up a list. I never knew who the first one was….The wisdom of President Nixon and his concern about hippies in government caused him to put a freeze on hiring. So I accompanied my husband as a spouse on his first tour in Mexico City.
Of course they lifted the freeze on hiring three months after my eligibility on the list ran out. I took it again in ’75 which again was the year of the class action complaint came in on my own and the rest was my career history from there. But that three years as the wife of, had the same galvanizing effect on my as it did on Elinor and Phyllis….
I was told that I was the first diplomatic wife ever to work. I got to work for $5,000 a year as a teacher at the Colegio Mexicano, thanks to the fact that I followed a family rule: When in doubt, go. I had had enough of the parties. One more American Legion group was just not something I cold tolerate. I said I wasn’t going but I was persuaded to go and that is where I met the woman who offered me the job because she thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread….Perhaps that was what gave me a sense of the importance of building institutionally, which is the thought I want you to take away from my undistinguished life history in the State Department….
I looked at my situation and said well he has got to choose between his chosen career and me or I have to choose between him and having a career, or just change the Foreign Service. Of the three at the time, the third seemed like the best option. So that is what I proceeded to do. I got together and found some older women who seemed sympathetic. We formed the research committee on spouses in which we discovered what Elinor already knew, which was in fact there was no statutory basis for disallowing married women, pregnant women, or any other kind of woman not to be in the Foreign Service.
But it was at a time of rising bra burning and feminism and rancor particularly within the Department. It was our considered opinion that this was not going to go well if it got framed as a women’s issue. I suspect Elinor and I have some shared views in this regard. I don’t think that hyphens are appropriate. I don’t think that special interests are appropriate in this institution in foreign policy or in American diplomacy.
The short unscientific survey which we managed to do with the help of friends of officers in the Department and the results were astounding. 33% of the male officers, and that is who they were in those days — this would have been about ’74-’75 — came back and said their next assignment would be influenced by the working status and possibilities of their wives. Well that is not a woman’s problem; that is a management problem. It is an institutional problem…. It is unusual that things go from policy decision to execution in one year. With the foundation in the State Department of the Family Liaison Office [FLO] was an unusual example of such….
Are there more lessons to be learned? Framing the issue correctly. This wasn’t about women; it was about the institution. It wasn’t about me; it was about us, the Foreign Service family. This was an issue that was emerging but it had a broad constituency which when mobilized turned out to be passionate and could be united. Both of those things are crucial. This was coming from inside, and not outside.
In my experience very little has happened in this building that is significant that comes from inside. If it comes from outside it is like building sand castles. They get washed away as soon as the next bunch of short-termers leave and we all know why. Finding senior friends, senior women was not the problem, senior women were not the enemy, in fact many of them were the fix. We found a way of working across the generations.
Timing — both Democrats and Republicans in the late 70’s were worried about families. Aha. It was not going to be the women’s office or anything else. We framed it in terms of the Foreign Service family. To skip forward because time is fleeting it was established in 1978….On June 12, 1980, the United States and Canada agreed reciprocally to allow the family members of U.S. and Canadian government officials stationed in each other’s countries to work, what in 1975 I envisioned as reciprocal work agreements….
The moral of this story is the nature and the condition of this institution depends on you, not anybody else. It is not about your ego, it is about what is good for the institution. I am personally very distressed about what I see as the deterioration of professional diplomacy in our professional diplomatic service….The main point is to build institutionally, and that is what I took away from the creation of FLO [Family Liaison Office] because I knew that if it was just a bunch of tactical fixes and ameliorations it was not going to make a difference.
What we tried to build was an institution that would provide for people who had been disallowed even acknowledgment by the 1972 Declaration on Spouses, which turned women from being dependents into non-persons. And to help people help themselves in the belief that if they had the information and if they had the access to information they could not only solve their own problems they could do best kinds of work. So that is what I spent the rest of my career doing….
So I would encourage you if you have complaints, don’t look at what can’t be done. Do like Elinor; do like Phyllis and think about what you can use at hand, including those with more experience than you to make a difference and move this institution form the 20th century into the 21st.
“I want a system that works for both men and women”
Eileen Malloy: Wonderful. I have been asked to add just a couple of comments, so I am going to rush through this very quickly so we can have time for questions. I have been spending the last 11 years as an inspector, and as I go around the world speaking to entry-level officers and other officers, I quite often hear complaints about what State does or does not do for families to support women in the work place.
What I always remind these people is that this is a continuum. The issue that is troubling you today is so far advanced from those issues that were troubling women when we were first allowed to come in. So for my perspective when I came in in 1978, there was no family support at all. There was no child care at all. No maternity leave, no formal tandem program. As you heard you had to go out and broker it one way or another….
There is the child care at FSI [Foreign Service Institute], which is even more recent. There are formal programs and there is this vibrant discussion on work and life balance so my point to people is your concerns today are perfectly legitimate but it is really helpful if you look back and see what the Department has already done and what the constraints are and that will help you do what Stephanie has done and that is frame it in the most constructive way. That is a really important point.
The other thing I want to mention is the Palmer suit. That was the base line suit that said the Department was discriminating against women across the board, in hiring in assignments, in evaluations, everything. And I was the beneficiary of that. I was a part of the class action suit and I was allowed to change my cone and move from consular work which I actually really adored. I am an operations management specialist into political work because it was my perception at that time that I had no future if I stayed in the consular cone. That only by moving could I get into the types of leadership programs that I wanted. I really supported that. I believed in that lawsuit.
So where we are now is you no longer hear the overt expressions from officers that women are not good enough. I was introduced by my boss in Moscow to a group of my Soviet contacts by a monologue of “the State Department requires us to hire women and we search for the best ones we can and we take what we got and here’s our science officer.” You couldn’t get away with doing that nowadays.
In recent times I was trying to mediate a conflict overseas and the man, the superior said, “Well, you know she really got off to a bad start with me by showing up and telling me she had to go off on maternity leave.” So I said, OK, there are still some out there, but most of them have moved out of the system.
The people who were raised in a different era and really couldn’t adapt, so right now, in my humble opinion, the major challenge for the State Department in terms of women is how do we retain them through the upper grades? How do we keep them when you run into that awful crunch between the desire to hold a family and the responsibility and elderly parents and illness, because we are still losing far too many women form the mid grades up.
We are bringing in more than before but we aren’t holding on to them. So the key in the job for all of you in the room, especially you younger folks, is working really hard to create work-life balance conditions that work for both men and women. I have been so happy to have a male subordinate come to me and say, “I really need to go home on time every Wednesday to coach my kid’s little league.” He feels empowered to do that because the women of the previous generation fought for those rights.
So I don’t want a system that works just for women, I want a system that works for both men and women and only then will we have a healthy work force and have really talented people willing to stay in the Foreign Service. So I am going to shut up and open up the floor for questions.
“Women tend to be called good managers and men are called leaders”
Q: I would just like to start off by saying your talk is real inspirational — every one of you. Some of you have touched on this a little bit so please forgive the redundancy. I am wondering what are some issues you saw during your careers for women who had advanced to your high levels that you continue to see today?
Eileen Malloy: I can tell you right off the bat it is the way people are evaluated. If anybody’s ever worked on a promotion panel and you read the evaluation reports of women and the evaluation reports of men you see a huge difference. Women are evaluated on the bases of where they are right now. What they have already demonstrated, what they have already learned.
Men tend to be evaluated by their potential. Women tend to be called good managers and men are called leaders. Yet of you get down to the specifics they are actually doing exactly the same thing and showing the same traits. So that would by my answer.
Elinor Constable:…I would urge anyone who is working here or works at another agency to simply be mindful and pay attention what is happening. What can I do to support sensible reasonable change? I work with people on performance evaluations quite a lot during my career. I have a couple of tips for people: If a man is writing about a woman for example, I said go through and change all of the pronouns to he and see how it reads. If it sounds OK, it is probably OK.
I don’t think any of you have seen what used to be in reports about women. A friend of mine was described as doing a very good job even though she was “broad in the beam.” Seriously. Hopefully that has stopped.
But there are subtle ways in which these distinctions remain, and I love the idea of thinking about men and women. My policy by the way when I managed a lot of men, I made them go home at close of business. I made them. Their deadlines were opening of business, not close of business. I would stand over them as they packed up their briefcases and walked out the door to go home with their families. If they came in at 5:00 a.m. the next day, I didn’t care but they were going to go home. So I get that idea….
Q: You all have given your personal experiences and I can relate deeply to. But nobody has mentioned political considerations. You mentioned under Jimmy Carter a quota for a DAS and that kind of thing but nobody has mentioned Madeline Albright, Hillary Clinton, and those factors. Did you have anything to say about that?…
Elinor Constable: I think the middle level qualification is critical. Having a woman or a minority at the top of an organization may or may not make any difference at all, and very often it makes no difference at all. What you have to have is somebody, no matter who they are, in a position to influence the middle level to get a situation where competent women are considered for jobs.
In my own experience I had a terrible time getting my hands on a job. Once I got my hands on it I could do it, but there was nobody except for a certain token effort, and the Carter Administration was very ham-handed about it….
You need to have within the pool that you are considering for any position a woman and a minority. Then go for the best person. But if you don’t make sure that pool always includes some diversity, you are never going to get there because people hire their clones. That is just standard, I don’t know how you would describe it. White guys hire white guys. If they know them, they are comfortable with them. So you have to make sure that the pool is mixed….
“Whatever you are, be you”
Q: Thank you. I really appreciate the comments that have been made. The continuing discussion that goes on seems to be involved right now is whether women can get ahead or if they have to act like men. I would just like your thoughts on that.
Eileen Malloy: Since I entered the workforce, that was in the 1970’s that was a period of time when women thought they had to be more masculine than men. A lot of women were not nurturing or particularly helpful to fellow women in that time period. We now have gone beyond that. In the last ten years or so I have seen a blossoming of women at all levels coming together and making a conscious effort to help other women at all levels,. Since there is only one token job for a female and it is either you or me is no longer there. There are more opportunities.
I think you can be a feminine female, be whatever you want to be as long as you have the leadership skills and technical skills and management skills for whatever your specialty is and a good deal of emotional intelligence that you can succeed. You don’t necessarily have to wear a three-piece striped suit. You can be yourself and still succeed.
Elinor Constable: Amen to that. It is true that when I came into the Foreign Service in the 50’s and then on through there was this notion about women acting like men. I never bought it and I never did it. I always was me. Now maybe I am like a man, I don’t know, but I was always just me.
Now I have to tell you that very often, I am ashamed to say this but we all do this. We use our character our qualities and who we are and in my case I am a woman and when I was in Kenya I had a very good relationship with the president of Kenya. I didn’t approve of him really. I had to have a good working relationship with it. I used to go into his office and sit next to him and pat him on his knee. Now a man could never do that, but he loved it. He told a couple of senators one time, “We love your ambassador; she is a mother.”
So I think what Eileen said is right on. Be yourself, use your strengths. Don’t pretend to be anything. If you are a tough lady, be a tough lady. If you are a softer person, be a softer person but whatever you are, be you.
Pictured: Event participants with ADST Spring 2015 interns.