For­eign Ser­vice of­fi­cers are white, male elites.

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK -

In a 2014 blog post, a for­mer di­plo­mat com­plained that “Break­ing into the Good Old Boys Diplo­matic Club is Still Hard to Do,” and in his book “A Life­time of Dis­sent,” Ray­mond Gon­za­les like­wise ar­gues that “as For­eign Ser­vice Of­fi­cers, the odds for His­pan­ics or Blacks mak­ing the cut are pretty grim. Thus, the good ol’ boy net­work per­pet­u­ates it­self.”

There was a time when mem­bers of the For­eign Ser­vice al­most ex­clu­sively came from well-heeled fam­i­lies of Amer­i­can pa­tri­cian so­ci­ety and were ed­u­cated in one of the Ivy League bas­tions of priv­i­lege, part of an “old boys’ ” net­work (sar­cas­ti­cally re­ferred to as “pale, male and Yale”).

These days, though, For­eign Ser­vice of­fi­cers look more like Amer­ica. They come from ru­ral and small-town as well as ur­ban ar­eas, and from state and small pri­vate col­leges as well as the Ivy League. If you think you can com­pete for the op­por­tu­nity to rep­re­sent this coun­try abroad and are pre­pared to tol­er­ate — in many posts — reg­u­lar power out­ages, poor pub­lic health and san­i­ta­tion stan­dards, and a dan­ger­cur­tailed life­style, you’re wel­come to ap­ply.

But while the For­eign Ser­vice has changed, when it comes to gen­der and racial di­ver­sity, there’s still work to be done. Al­most half a cen­tury ago, in 1970, less than 5 per­cent of For­eign Ser­vice of­fi­cers, and only 1 per­cent of se­nior-level of­fi­cers, were women. By 2003, women were one-third of the of­fi­cer corps and 25 per­cent of those at se­nior lev­els. The lat­est State De­part­ment re­port lists women as 40 per­cent of the “FS Gen­er­al­ist” corps (ac­count­ing for most diplo­mats) and onethird of the Se­nior For­eign Ser­vice.

Like­wise, the share of black ca­reer of­fi­cers is still dis­ap­point­ingly small but grow­ing from prior decades: It reached 6 per­cent in 2005 and by this spring was not any higher. That’s bet­ter than the mere two dozen black of­fi­cers at work in 1968, but with clear and needed room for im­prove­ment.

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