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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

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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.

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)

Next Story

Sexual Harassment: Microsoft Employees Write The Email Chain To Initiate An Investigation

"As a Microsoft Partner, was asked to sit on someone's lap twice in one meeting in front of HR and other executives," she wrote, adding that no one objected to the demand.

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This is not the first time Microsoft faced scrutiny for sexual harassment claims. Pixabay

An email chain full of sexual harassment claims by women employees prompted Microsoft to initiate an investigation into the issue, according to a report in the Quartz.

Started on March 20, the email chain contains allegations of sexual harassment ranging from sexist comments during work trips to being told to sit on a co-worker’s lap in front of a human resources leader, said the report.

 

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Another Microsoft employee alleged that while she was working as a “Microsoft Partner” – a senior level person in the organisation – she was asked to sit on a co-worker’s lap. Pixabay

“This thread has pulled the scab off a festering wound. The collective anger and frustration is palpable. A wide audience is now listening. And you know what? I’m good with that,” one Microsoft employee in the email chain wrote, according to Quartz, which independently verified the content of the emails with two Microsoft employees.

According to an account of one female Microsoft employee in the email chain, an employee of a partner company threatened to kill her if she did not perform implied sexual acts.

The employee said she had raised an alarm, but HR and the management did nothing to assuage her concerns.

Another Microsoft employee alleged that while she was working as a “Microsoft Partner” – a senior level person in the organisation – she was asked to sit on a co-worker’s lap.

“As a Microsoft Partner, was asked to sit on someone’s lap twice in one meeting in front of HR and other executives,” she wrote, adding that no one objected to the demand.

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According to an account of one female Microsoft employee in the email chain, an employee of a partner company threatened to kill her if she did not perform implied sexual acts. 
VOA

After dozens of emails had accumulated on the chain, Kathleen Hogan, Microsoft’s head of human resources, replied on March 29 that she had raised the issue with the company’s senior leadership team, and would personally look into claims that were initially overlooked by HR.

Also Read: Facebook Planning To Merge All Its Platforms Into One

This is not the first time Microsoft faced scrutiny for sexual harassment claims.

According to a class action lawsuit filed in March 2018, the software giant did not take seriously 238 cases of sexual harassment or discrimination between 2010 and 2016. (IANS)