The Washington Post yesterday had an interesting piece on the "Hillary Effect" and how Secretary Clinton is credited with bringing more women into ambassadorial positions in the U.S. According to the article, there are now 25 female ambassadors posted in Washington (including the first ever from a Muslim country, Hunaina Sultan Al-Mughairy of Oman), the highest number ever. Women remain, however, a distinct minority among the 182 accredited ambassadors in Washington.
Today, DiploPundit has an interesting piece on "The Palmer Effect".
Alison Palmer, the woman who helped get more women into the U.S. State Department, was hired as a FSO in 1959. In 1970, the Department paid for her to earn a Master's in African studies from Boston University. Yet despite her experience and degree, she was turned down for several assignments in Africa after ambassadors wrote that they didn't want her because she was a woman. She ended up as a social secretary to the wife of an ambassador who did not want her because she was a woman.
This was at a time when just nine percent of Foreign Service officers were women. By 2007, it was 37 percent. Palmer, now 78, wonders why it is not 51%, like the general population.
You can read all of DiploPundit's excellent post here.
I do wonder whether sexism is completely dead and gone in the State Department. I know that for my own A-100 class, which was about 50% female, only 20% of the women in the class were tenured on the first go round, compared with 50% of the men. And of those tenured, again about 20% of the women and 50% of the men were promoted. Those statistics bothered me, and several other of the the women in the class (whether tenured and promoted or not), but we decided not to say anything about it.
Clearly the Department has come a long way in hiring and promoting women, minorities, and gays and lesbians. I am optimistic the trend will continue, but we are still have a ways to go.