Blinken announces appointment of first chief diversity officer at State Department
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday announced the appointment of a veteran State Department official to the newly created position of chief diversity officer.
Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, a 30-year veteran of the foreign service and longtime ambassador to Malta, will report directly to the secretary on efforts to improve inclusion at the State Department.
“Gina is a diplomat who knows there are times when you shouldn’t be diplomatic, like when people are denied an equal shot at rising in their career, prevented from serving our country because of who they are,” Blinken said in remarks from the State Department.
“She won’t be afraid to tell me where we’re coming up short,” he added.
The move is an effort by the Biden administration to address long-standing inequities of minority representation in government and is an outgrowth of the national reckoning with racial discrimination following the police killing of George Floyd in May 2020.
The State Department, as the face of America to the world, has come under increased scrutiny to improve its own record of retaining and promoting foreign and civil service officers of color and confront discrimination in its own agency.
Blinken spoke to these criticisms by highlighting a 2020 report by the Government Accountability Office, an independent government watchdog, which found that ethnic minorities in the department’s civil service were 29 percent less likely to be promoted than their white peers.
The report also found that women and minorities were underrepresented in the hierarchy of the agency.
Asian American members of the foreign service are also speaking out about discrimination at the department amid increased attention on racism and violence against their community that has intensified since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Politico reported last month that more than 100 foreign policy and national security professionals from the Asian American and Pacific Islander community signed a letter decrying discrimination in their jobs based on ethnicity.
“Treating all Asian-Americans working in national security with a broad stroke of suspicion, rather than seeing us as valuable contributors, is counterproductive to the greater mission of securing the homeland,” they wrote.
Blinken acknowledged the tough road ahead in addressing inequity at the agency.
“This work is hard, it can be painful, but it’s going to make us better diplomats, and it will help us do right by the people on our team who have for too long waged this battle alone,” Blinken said.
Abercrombie-Winstanley, who is Black, is an outspoken advocate for how the department can take steps to increase representation of minority communities and rectify discrimination.
“I believe that we, the Department of State, should and can become in the field of inclusion a leader. Indeed, we have the talent to become the model for diversity, equity and inclusion in the workforce,” she said in remarks at the State Department.
Abercrombie-Winstanley is a veteran government official and has worked with both Republican and Democratic leaders.
She served as deputy coordinator for counterterrorism during the George W. Bush administration and as a fellow on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for then-ranking member Joe Biden.