Wednesday November 21, 2018
Home Lead Story Top US Women ...

Top US Women Diplomats Speak Out on Sexual Harassment

Women from all sectors are coming out to speak against sexual harassment cases, this time U.S women diplomats lashed out against such incidents

0
//
FILE - Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, who served as the US Ambassador in Malta, addresses participants during a gay pride parade organized by the Malta Gay Rights Movement in Sliema, outside Valletta, June 30, 2012.
Republish
Reprint

As U.S. lawmakers grapple with allegations of sexual harassment in their ranks, some senior American diplomats are speaking out about their struggles over the years.

Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, who was U.S. ambassador to Malta from 2012-2016, told her story about serving at the State Department and the White House.

“There was one occasion in the department when a boss touched me and I told him if he did it again, I’d knock the s— out of him. He did not repeat it, but he did try to get me to curtail from the position,” Abercrombie-Winstanley told the Foreign Service Journal, a publication by the American Foreign Service Association.

The former U.S. envoy recalled another incident in which she said she was harassed by a senior lawmaker while serving on the White House National Security Council.

“Initially, I parried the advance from a senior member of Congress, but when he continued to call me, I reported to the NSC’s executive secretary that it was happening, and told him that if I had to do violence to repel it, I would,” Abercombie-Winstanley said.

“I was letting him know beforehand, I said, because I did not expect to lose my job as a result,” she added. “After a moment of shocked silence, he said ‘Thanks for letting me know.’ And the member stopped calling me.”

She later told VOA these occasions are an “extremely small part of my professional journey” and declined to either comment further on details or identify the congressman.

‘Zero-tolerance’ policy

In a letter electronically distributed to all American diplomats around the world earlier this year, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the department upholds a “zero-tolerance” policy regarding discriminatory and sexual harassment.

“Effective harassment prevention efforts must start with and involve the highest level possible,” Tillerson said in his policy statement.

For years, secretaries of state release their statements on diversity and harassment in the workplace at the beginning of their tenure and review annually thereafter. They usually highlight two anti-harassment policies: one prohibiting sexual harassment, the other banning discrimination.

U.S. Ambassador Laura Dogu. (U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua website)

Male-dominated circles

Still, female ambassadors said they must learn to adjust and handle the challenges involved in working in mainly male-dominated diplomatic circles.

“I am frequently the only woman in meetings outside the office with the host country, and when I have control over the guest list, I insist that we include at least 30 percent women, if not more,” U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua Laura Dogu said in the Foreign Service Journal article.

Like Ambassador Dogu, former Ambassador to Mongolia Jennifer Zimdahl Galt said she has been the only woman or one of the only women in the room at virtually every meeting throughout her career. The key to working in such an environment, she said, is to be well-prepared and a good listener.

FILE – U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia Jennifer Zimdahl Galt and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry past a traditional honor guard upon arrival at Chinggis Khaan International Airport in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, June 5, 2016.

“So you can speak authoritatively and there is no question that you are on top of your brief. It’s also important to dress professionally, which in my book means wearing a suit at all times,” said Galt, who was appointed as principle deputy assistant secretary for educational and cultural affairs earlier this month.

She also said, “Being sure to listen carefully to what others have to say so that you’re not repeating, but rather amplifying and adding value with your remarks.”

Building minority leadership

In a speech to student programs and fellowship participants in August, Tillerson said he had directed relevant committees to develop “minority leadership” at the State Department.

“Every time we have an opening for an ambassador position, at least one of the candidates must be a minority candidate. Now they may not be ready, but we will know where the talent pool is,” Tillerson said.

Seen as part of these efforts, Irwin Steven Goldstein will begin his new position next week (December 4) as the first openly gay undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs.

In Senate testimony, Goldstein thanked his spouse for supporting his career of developing and executing communications strategies that connect diverse audiences. (VOA)

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2017 NewsGram

Next Story

Do More to Create Equality: Women Leaders In Tech During Web Summit

Google's head of philanthropy, Jacquelline Fuller, said she joined the walkout last week, admitting more needs to be done.

0
Google, Web summit
The center stage at Web Summit, Europe's biggest tech conference, in Lisbon, Portugal. VOA

Women leaders in technology called at one of the sector’s largest global conferences, Web Summit for more to be done to drive equality in the male-dominated industry now hit by the #MeToo debate.

The ninth Web Summit comes amid growing concerns about sexism in the tech world, with thousands of Google employees walking out last week to protest the company’s response to sexual misconduct and workplace inequality.

In a poll of 1,000 women leaders in tech by the Web Summit, given exclusively to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, 47 percent said the gender ratio in leadership had not improved in the past year. Only 17 percent said it was better.

Stephen Hawking, web summit
FILE- Cosmologist Stephen Hawking delivers a video message during the inauguration of Web Summit, Europe’s biggest tech conference, in Lisbon, Portugal, Nov. 6, 2017. (VOA)

 

Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president for environment, policy and social initiatives, said it was crucial to have more women in the sector.

“We can’t accomplish what we need if women [aren’t involved] in tech,” Jackson, who was part of President Barack Obama’s administration, told the Web Summit in Lisbon.

About 70,000 people from 170 nations were at the conference, where the number of women attendees has risen to about 45 percent from 25 percent in 2013, helped by discounting tickets, according to organizers. They did not have earlier figures.

Talking about expertise

“This year a lot of the talks on our stages are touching on the [number of women in the sector],” Anna O’Hare, head of content at Web Summit, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “But rather than women just talking about this, they are talking about the areas in which they are experts in tech.”

The tech sector has long come under scrutiny for inequality and its “bro-gamer” type of culture, referring to men who play video games.

Global organizations, including the United Nations and the European Commission, have spoken out about under-representation of women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Facebook, Web Summit
Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on foreign influence operations and their use of social media on Capitol Hill. VOA

A 2016 report by the global consultancy McKinsey found women made up 37 percent of entry-level roles in technology but only 25 percent reached senior management roles and 15 percent made executive level.

The poll of women at the Web Summit found eight of every 10 women felt confident and respected in their roles, but they were divided when asked if they were treated the same as men, with 60 percent saying they were under more pressure to prove themselves.

Thirty-seven percent worried that women were offered leadership roles only to fill quotas.

While half of the women polled said their companies were doing enough to ensure equality, nearly 60 percent said governments were not active enough to address the imbalance.

Several tech company representatives have told the Web Summit of attempts to boost equality, with moves such as training staff in unconscious bias, deleting gender from CVs, ensuring that all short lists have women and improving maternity rights.

Google, Web summit
Google employees fill Harry Bridges Plaza in front of the Ferry Building during a walkout, Nov. 1, 2018, in San Francisco. Hundreds of Google employees around the world briefly walked off the job in a protest against what they said is the tech company’s mishandling of sexual misconduct allegations against executives. VOA

Better results

Gillian Tans, chief executive at the online travel agent Booking.com, said it had been proven that companies with “more women in management positions actually perform better.”

Also Read: Silicon Valley, Google Walk Off To Protest Against Mishandling Of Sexual Harassment Cases

This comes after organizers of the Google protest and other staff said the company’s executives, like leaders at dozens of companies affected by the #MeToo movement, were slow to address structural issues such as unchecked power of male bosses.

Google’s head of philanthropy, Jacquelline Fuller, said she joined the walkout last week, admitting more needs to be done.

“We need to do a better job at creating a safe and inclusive workplace,” she said. “We need more women in tech.” (VOA)