Foreign Service officers are white, male elites.
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.