129. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The Secretary’s Meeting with Representatives of the Women’s Action Organization


  • Secretary Kissinger
  • Mrs. Dorothy Stansbury, WAO
  • Miss Barbara Good, WAO
  • Mrs. Donna Oglesby, WAO
  • Dr. Dorothy Sampas, WAO
  • Nathaniel Davis, Director General


  • Mr. Thomas Boyatt, AFSA


  • M. Dell Palazzolo, M/DG

Summary—The representatives of WAO praised the accomplishments of the foreign affairs agencies in the area of equal opportunities for women in the past few years, but expressed dismay that there are still few women occupying top level positions in the Department and overseas and that women are very under-represented in a number of offices and bureaus in the Department. WAO asked the Secretary to make two statements, one public and one “in-house”, supporting equal opportunities for women and to explore the possibility of developing in State a program similar to the one Director Keogh has initiated at USIA to involve his senior staff in equal opportunity programs. End of Summary

Mrs. Stansbury opened the meeting by introducing herself and the other representatives of WAO by giving some background on each one. Mrs. Stansbury said that the foreign affairs agencies have taken a lead in promoting equal opportunities for women. She outlined the accomplishments of the last few years including the policies on spouses, on non-discrimination in assignments, reappointment of former Foreign Service wives who had been forced to resign, and the upgrading of status for secretaries. The Secretary inquired as to the exact meaning of [Page 448] “professional status for secretaries” and as to what the problem was. Miss Good outlined the frustrations of secretaries including the fact that there was a ceiling beyond which secretaries could not be promoted and that they were expected to take a full share of the work while not being treated as equals or given equal privileges. Furthermore, secretaries are the only category in the Staff Corps without professional status. Ambassador Davis commented that measures were being taken to correct this situation, that he hoped to institute FSRU appointments for secretaries in the near future and that the next step in this program was consultation with AFSA.

Mrs. Stansbury stated that the Department had indeed taken steps to overcome discrimination and that what WAO would like to see would be a reaffirmation by Secretary Kissinger of these policies of the recent past. Miss Good added that one question of the constituents of WAO was: where did Secretary Kissinger stand on the professional status of women in the foreign affairs agencies. Secretary Kissinger replied that he believed women should compete on an equal basis with men, that he was not in favor of quotas nor did he sanction reverse discrimination and that a woman should neither be excluded from a job nor given an assignment purely because she was a woman. He added that because of the long history of discrimination on the basis of sex and its pervasive nature it would take a while to redress the discrimination that had occurred in the past. He acknowledged that measures might have to be taken to redress historical wrongs.

Miss Good spoke of the under-representation of women in certain areas in the Department. The Secretary asked Director General Davis if we were taking more women into the Foreign Service now. Ambassador Davis reported that well over 25 percent of the people who took the last Foreign Service examination were women, a much better percentage than in the past.

Dr. Sampas commented that although there was no lack of good will on the part of Management, a problem existed in the middle and senior levels of the Foreign Service, exacerbated by the fact that those assignments with the best opportunities for advancement usually do not go to women. She mentioned the fact that there are no country directors, just one woman executive director in a functional bureau and no office directors in INR who are women. She also pointed out that there were no women in top jobs in PM or SCI or in the population office in the Department and cited such prestige areas as S/P and the NSC as being especially weak on the distaff side. Miss Good also mentioned that there was a dearth of women assigned to delegations and in the top echelons of CU, even though educational and cultural affairs were considered a traditional women’s area. Also in the area of delegates to International Organizations the U.S. has a very small [Page 449] of women. The U.S. has 7.2% women in the FSO Corps, while developing countries have 10 to 50 percent women. Secretary Kissinger replied that he was unable to judge whether this problem was due to the fact that there were no qualified women for these jobs or if real bias did exist. He added that he would not, for example, want an unqualified woman as a country director. The WAO representatives agreed that women should be qualified for the positions to which they are assigned. Dr. Sampas pointed out, however, that a systematic search could and should regularly be made throughout the Foreign Service for qualified women who would not otherwise be considered if top assignments are made principally on the basis of personal acquaintance.

Director General Davis mentioned that a highly qualified and competent senior woman officer was currently heading up a major division in personnel2 and that every effort had been made, for example, to assure that women were placed on selection boards to the extent, in fact, that senior women officers had complained of being over-burdened. Mrs. Stansbury, in turn, cited examples of outstanding senior women who had been discriminated against in terms of assignment because the offices had their “token” woman or women, and one case of a woman whose outstanding ability had been considered almost secondary to her race and sex in the question of a promotion.

Secretary Kissinger stated that he certainly had no argument with the objectives stated by the WAO representatives, that he agreed with these objectives, but that the problem was implementation. He stated he would like to see more women on delegations and that systematic search should be made for women from within and without the Department to serve on delegations. (Miss Good interrupted here with a word of caution against tokenism or bringing in lateral entrants to do jobs FSO’s could fill.) Secretary Kissinger also said that we should make sure that more women are brought into the Service as junior officers and that women are represented in all the bureaus. He expressed amazement that there was not a single country director who was a woman.

The Secretary added that one problem was that, while he could meet with groups such as the WAO, he did not then have the opportunity closely to oversee the follow-up. Director General Davis stated he would take responsibility for implementation with the help of Mrs. Gladys Rogers, head of the Office of Women’s Affairs.

Dr. Sampas indicated that the Department could provide the Secretary in the future with econometric studies which would show the degree of past Department bias toward women, whether the situation [Page 450] vis-à-vis women was improving, the identity of particular women who seemed to have been victims of marked discrimination and who could be targeted for promotion. Secretary Kissinger then asked whether the group honestly believed that there were enough qualified women in the Department to be assigned to any sizeable number of jobs in the substantive bureaus. Dr. Sampas replied by stating that the Department could have done much better in this regard and she cited percentages which showed a miniscule increase in the numbers of women at the senior levels and only a small increase overall. Dr. Sampas also stated that she believed a comparative study of the qualifications of women at a particular grade versus those of men at the same grade would show most interesting results. Mrs. Stansbury said that with the aid of Mrs. Rogers and Mrs. Marcy of USIA she had compiled a list of women in the foreign affairs agencies who were qualified to be ambassadors or to be assigned to top positions in the Department and overseas. Secretary Kissinger said he would be most interested in seeing this list and suggested that a copy also be given to Director General Davis.

Mrs. Stansbury urged that the Secretary make a public statement containing the views on equal opportunities for women that he had expressed to the WAO representatives. He agreed to do so. Mrs. Stansbury also urged that the Secretary make a second “in-house” statement reaffirming the four existing major policy statements (on wives, secretaries, non-discrimination in assignments, and equal opportunity).3 Secretary Kissinger agreed to consider this request sympathetically, but stated that he first wished to read the four statements. The WAO representatives were able to provide three of the statements at the meeting and indicated they would send Dr. Kissinger a copy of the fourth statement. Miss Good pointed out that a reaffirmation of policies by Dr. Kissinger would be particularly appropriate now in view of the UN resolution designating 1975 as International Women’s Year (IWY). She also described the goals of International Women’s Year and its themes of equality, development and peace. A paper enlarging upon [Page 451] these points was given to the Secretary.4 The Secretary expressed his feeling that the Department should be doing something about IWY.

WAO indicated that much of the problem in career development of women stemmed from attitudes of senior management. In this regard Mrs. Oglesby stated that there was a third action that Secretary Kissinger could personally undertake. She explained the program through which Director Keogh at USIA was trying personally to involve his senior staff in equal opportunity programs. First, Keogh had ordered a statistical profile of the agency to demonstrate areas in which women and minorities were concentrated or were not. After the study was done, Keogh held a ninety minute discussion with the senior officers at the Agency about the study and its implications. This is to be followed by three further seminars on this subject in the spring. Every supervisor is encouraged to attend one of the three full day sessions. Secretary Kissinger said that the programs initiated by Director Keogh sounded good and that a similar program should be explored for possible use in the Department of State.

Secretary Kissinger said the major step is to take action, to assure that there is follow-up. He asked Director General Davis what had been accomplished as the result of the meeting with the Black Caucus.5 The Director General mentioned several areas of progress. Secretary Kissinger also pointed out that Tom Boyatt in his AFSA capacity sits in on these meetings.6 Secretary Kissinger reiterated his amazement that there was no country director who was a woman. He said he would be interested to find out why this was. Director General Davis stated he would look into the situation and would make an effort to get qualified women assigned as country directors.

Mrs. Oglesby stated that it would be interesting to find out how many women were staff assistants, that she thought they were few in number. Dr. Sampas added that the individuals who are assigned to difficult and demanding jobs early in their careers are the ones who are forced to grow and stretch and, thereafter, reach the top echelons of their professions. She added that over 40 percent of the women junior officers were consular officers and that the reason so many women are found in the consular and administrative cones is not because they necessarily lack qualifications for substantive work, but because of traditional pressures and bias that forces them into these areas. Secretary [Page 452] Kissinger replied that he thought all Foreign Service Officers should have broad experience. A brief discussion of cones followed.

Secretary Kissinger indicated that he would be meeting with WAO representatives on occasions in the future, and expected WAO members to be blunt with him on such occasions concerning where progress was being made and where there was none.

The meeting ended with the participants expressing pleasure with having had the opportunity to discuss equal opportunities for women in the foreign affairs agencies. The representatives of WAO indicated they would supply the Secretary with some of the material that had been discussed during the meeting.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, General Administrative Correspondence Files of the Deputy Under Secretary for Management, 1968–75: Lot 78 D 295, WAO 1972–1974. Unclassified. Drafted by Mary Dell Palazzolo (DG/PER) on March 27. The meeting was held in Kissinger’s office at the Department of State.
  2. Mary S. Olmsted was Deputy Director of Personnel for Policy, Classification, and Evaluation.
  3. To mark the observation of Women’s Week, August 26–30, Kissinger released a statement affirming the Department’s commitment to women in foreign policymaking: “Equality of opportunity and reward for merit are essential if the foreign affairs agencies are to respond creatively to the challenges of contemporary diplomacy. For this reason, I want to underscore my personal commitment to the role women must play in the formulation and presentation of U.S. foreign policy.” Moreover, he urged all senior officers to make “professional equality for women a reality” and to make “tangible progress toward that objective” by 1975, the United Nations International Women’s Year (IWY). For the complete text, see the Department of State Newsletter, September 1974, p. 28.
  4. Not found.
  5. See Document 124.
  6. WAO’s legal counsel had indicated that there was no need for Mr. Boyatt to sit in on the meeting and WAO had disagreed strongly with the fact that an invitation had been extended to him. WAO does not regard Mr. Boyatt’s presence as setting a precedent for any future meeting between it and any managerial officials of the foreign affairs agency. [Footnote in the original.]