Sunday, March 04, 2007

Stats on Women in the Foreign Service


"Women in the Foreign Service"
Ambassador Ellen Shippy, Diplomat in Residence, University of NM
12 September 2003

The United States has approximately 288 posts abroad in 162 countries. These are primarily embassies and consulates, which are "branch embassies." The Department of State has approximately 47,000 employees, of which 5,500 are Foreign Service Officers, 4,000 are Foreign Service Specialists (support staff), 7,000 are Civil Service, and 30,000 are Foreign Service nationals. With respect to women, 34% of FS officers are women; 31% of Specialists are women, and 61% of Civil Service employees are women.

At senior levels, the senior Foreign Service and the senior Executive Service, women represent 25% and 30% of senior Foreign Service and Civil Service positions.

Now let's talk more specifically about women in the Foreign Service. The first woman joined the FS in 1922. The first woman ambassador was appointed in 1949; she was ambassador to Denmark from 1949 to 1953. The first woman assistant Secretary of State (for public affairs) was appointed in 1973. The first woman to head a regional bureau was in 1985. The first female Secretary of State of Madeleine Albright in 1997...Yes, there are sometimes difficult questions to deal with, such as dating, marriage, children, employment for your spouse...the same questions male FS officers are dealing with.

The last sentence reminds me of the many questions I am asked and ask myself about my focus on only female expats when both men and women face challenges when they chose a life overseas. From what I observed as an expat, in families, typically the women gave up their careers if one spouse sacrificed a career. My concern was that if the movers and shakers of the 21st century are people who can successful navigate an international career, then I wanted to know how women were doing in this arena. I flashback to statistics about teachers overseas. Although I do not have exact figures, I recall that a high percentage of teachers in international schools were women, but a low percentage high-level administrators were female.

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