October 1997

The Women's Action Organization, USIA Chapter, believes that the consolidation of the foreign affairs agencies offers an opportunity to further the advances of women in foreign affairs. In conjunction with the concept of "best practices," WAO urges consideration of the following principles.

  1. Advancement of Career Women to Senior Positions

    Senior-Most Positions -- At USIA, the current and last two Counselors of Agency -- the senior-most foreign service career position in the agency -- have been women. WAO urges the Secretary similarly to recognize the talent and dedication of senior career women by selecting outstanding senior career civil and foreign service women to join her circle of senior advisers. WAO also suggests that the Secretary make a special effort to select highly qualified women for high profile special assignments.

    Equity in Promotions -- Recent developments at USIA have indicated that women still face an uphill battle in achieving equity in promotions. The findings of an independent evaluation recently done in response to an EEO complaint resulted in a plan of action to help level the playing field. WAO asks the Secretary to study these and other findings and to continue monitoring the status of women in the foreign and civil service so as to ensure that women are treated fairly in the promotion process. WAO also urges that the Secretary ensure that women are more equitably treated in terms of long-term training opportunities, performance awards, and assignments to special projects and career-enhancing jobs, the necessary pre-requisites to promotions.

    Statistics -- Monitoring women's status can only be achieved through the study of broad trends. WAO requests that the Secretary mandate the collection of all relevant data and the preparation of statistical and analytical reports on women in the State Department work force. These statistics and reports on women should be updated and issued to you and all senior State Department officials on a regularized semiannual schedule, and be made readily available.

  2. Family Friendly Working Environment

    Friendly Policies -- Today's two-career and single-parent families are stressed by the demands of home and work. Preliminary results from a current study by the Women's Foreign Policy Group indicate that these burdens have special implications for women in international affairs professions. WAO urges the Secretary to promote family-friendly work policies, such as Flexitime, Maxi Flex, Job Sharing, and Telecommuting. Employees -- both women and men -- should not be disadvantaged because they opt for these family friendly alternatives.

    Family Friendly Work Culture -- WAO urges the Secretary to encourage a work culture that is respectful of family needs and that does not disadvantage those workers -- be they male or female -- who emphasize efficiency, set priorities, and get the job done in a timely fashion so as to leave the office on schedule. WAO applauds the Secretary's efforts to increase funding for foreign affairs and hopes that those offices with genuine under staffing can receive the necessary personnel resources so as to make the stay-late culture a feature of the old, not the new, State Department.

    Child Care -- WAO is aware that the State Department has established a child care center. WAO lauds this development and urges that accessible and affordable child care be made available to all employees of the consolidated State Department, including those assigned to other work locations such as USIA and FSI.

    Tandem Couples -- WAO urges the Secretary to improve the State Department's handling of tandem couple assignments so as to make the process easier and more available.

  3. 10-Point Affirmative Action Plan

    Adopt USIA Plan -- USIA Director Joseph Duffey has issued a 10-Point Affirmative Action Plan as a guide to USIA policies. WAO urges the Secretary to adopt this plan as her own, under the "best practices" approach.

    Promote EEO -- Dr. Duffey has indicated his commitment to Equal Employment Opportunity by having the EEO director report directly to him and by locating the EEO staff near his own offices. WAO asks the Secretary to follow suit.

  4. Training Opportunities

    Training Instead of RIFing -- The impact of the consolidation is likely to fall most heavily on clerical and other lower level employees. WAO requests that the Secretary authorize an aggressive program of training so that these employees, many of them women, can transfer to new positions or compete successfully for jobs elsewhere.

    Training for Promotion -- Training opportunities are an important way for women to advance their careers. WAO recommends that the Secretary vigorously promote the use of programs such as the USDA Executive Potential, Women's Executive Leadership, and New Leaders programs to help civil service women advance. Participation of women in other advanced training programs, such as the Senior Seminar and the National War College, should also be expanded.

  5. Hartman Suit

    Settle the Suit -- The Hartman suit against USIA has been dragging on for many years. WAO has long urged that the suit be settled. More importantly, WAO has recommended and continues to recommend that steps be taken to ensure the equitable hiring of women so as to obviate the need for any similar suit in the future.

    Foreign Affairs Agencies Reorganization
    U.S. Information Agency