Tillerson pledges to boost diversity at State

Keren Carrion

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday that the lack of diversity at the State Department is a “leadership” issue as he outlined the department’s efforts to recruit more African-American, Hispanic and female personnel.

“It’s not just to achieve a mix of population that looks like the rest of our country,” Tillerson said during an address to students of the department’s internship and leadership programs in Washington, D.C. “It enriches our work; it enriches our work product.” 

Tillerson’s remarks come at a time of tension in Washington as President Trump weathers scrutiny for his response to the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., which led to three deaths. 

{mosads}Tillerson mentioned that the department needs to work to recruit more LGBT, African-American, Hispanic, and female individuals to fill civil and foreign service roles. 

“We know we are a stronger organization when we embrace, incorporate diverse points of view into our work product,” Tillerson said.

The nation’s top diplomat explained that the department will “re-examine and expand” its recruitment efforts, including by reaching out to historically black colleges and universities and Latino-serving institutions as well as by expanding its footprint at minority-focused job fairs. 

“We will work to close the gender gap as well,” Tillerson said. 

“Qualified Americans of all backgrounds should know a career at the State Department is possible,” he said. 

Speaking to the new class of recruits, Tillerson noted that “the seeds of greater diversity that we’re planting today will need to be nurtured for years to come.” 

Among those in the audience were members of the department’s student, legal and Charles B. Rangel International Affairs intern programs, as well as recipients of the department’s scholarships. 

Tillerson, who has kept in place a hiring freeze at the department, said that it would not affect the agency’s internship and leadership programs. He also said that the temporary stop on hires, which has led to some criticism from former officials, is partially aimed at allowing State to review its operations and “position ourselves to improve our diversity.”

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