148. Memorandum From the Federal Women’s Program Coordinator of the Department of State (Prince) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Management (Eagleburger)1


  • Task Force to Study FSO Women

In recent years the Department has made significant strides in equal employment opportunity for women in the Foreign Service Of [Page 520] ficer Corps, especially in the issuance of policy statements.2 Yet all is not well. No matter where I look I find evidence that our good intentions are not being fulfilled as they might be or as they should be.

For example:

—Representation of women FSOs stands at only 9% as of June 30, 1975 (Tab A).3 Women in the national workforce exceed 38%.

—Representation of women FSOs has increased only 2% in the ten years since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 opened a new era (Tab B), and recent increases include FAS lateral conversions rather than just pure intake from the outside.

—Intake of women FSOs via the written/oral examination process has averaged only 11% over the past ten years (Tab C). Please note that in FY–75 just closed we slipped to an intake of only 13% from a high of 22% in FY–74.

—Only 27% of the persons applying for the 1974 FSO written exam were women and only 26% taking the exam were women (Tab D), which suggests that we need to improve recruitment since enrollment of women at publicly-funded institutions of higher learning is now in the vicinity of 40%. Also, please note that the pass rate among women (10%) was lower in 1974 than the pass rate among men (17%), which to some viewers suggests that our exam might still be discriminatory against women.

—Women FSOs are underrepresented in political and economic functions while perhaps being overrepresented in administrative and consular functions (Tab E), which some feminists view as outmoded stereotyping (i.e., housekeeping vs. policy roles).

—Thirteen of the fourteen women in the FSO–1 & 2 ranks are eligible for voluntary retirement (Tab F), which, if elected, could cause a 93% extinction of the species. Please also note that almost one quarter (24%) of all FSO women are eligible for voluntary retirement.

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—Women FSOs above the entry level are older than their male counterparts (Tab G), which tends to indicate that women FSOs have been promoted more slowly.

—Only two career women FSOs are serving as Ambassador, only two as DCM, only three as Principal Officer, etc. (Tab H), which easily allows the conclusion that women FSOs are inadequately represented in leadership roles while male FSO–3’s are being given “stretch” assignments like Ambassador.

The cumulative impact of data like the above leaves the Department vulnerable to class actions like those brought by women’s groups against AT&T, Sears, etc. (a recent issue of U.S. News and World Report carries a quote from a member of the Center for Women’s Policy Studies subtly suggesting that the federal government will be its next area of attack).4 On an individual basis, all signs indicate that women are losing patience and the old intimidation. We currently have individual formal actions from one woman FSO candidate charging discrimination in the oral exam and from three women FSOs charging discrimination in assignments, training, and promotion. And there are signs that the women who have not chosen the formal complaint route harbor sentiments not flattering to any institution—like the paper under Tab I which emerged accidentally (name and title deliberately obliterated).

Apart from wishing to spare the Department the nuisance and embarrassment of discrimination actions, I also want the Department to focus on the fact that it may be cheating itself out of a valuable human resource.

The things that need doing cannot be accomplished haphazardly here-and-there by people of good will who come and go in top roles, as we have done up until now. Policy statements aren’t enough unless there are people at all levels in all functions to promulgate them on a continuing basis. For example, the Secretary’s June 27 call for recruitment of minorities and women cannot be successful until BEX has a full-time professional recruiter who spends a number of years on the job—vice the current practice of a non-professional doing the job one year at a time on a part-time basis.

The Department appears to be in an era of new self-examination and reform. I therefore urge that we make affirmative action in EEO a reality by ordering the formulation of a Task Force to study FSO women. The Task Force could easily resemble the Task Force on Secretaries (which has inspired other federal agencies to similar action and has aroused admiration in the private sector).

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—The Chairperson of the Task Force must be of Ambassadorial Rank.

—At least half of the force members should be outsiders (like Joyce Robinson and Caroline Bird who served with distinction on Selection Boards two years ago).

—A penetrating questionnaire should be sent to all women FSOs to illicit where they exist attitudes and perceptions like those revealed under Tab I.

—Recruitment should be explored (are we going to the right campuses? etc.).

—The FSO written and oral exams should be validated to ensure nondiscrimination.

—Counseling functions in PER should be reviewed to preclude, e.g., charges of paternalism.

—Assignments should be studied to ensure that women FSOs are being assigned to jobs which lead to promotion and thereby close the age gap shown under Tab G.

—Training practices should be reexamined (e.g., no women in the FY–75 Senior Seminar, only one woman in the FY–75 War Colleges and Senior Fellowships), perhaps to change grade qualifications and imaginatively select outstanding women from the lower-graded pools.


Finally, since the fate of women FSOs resembles in many ways the fate of minority FSOs (only 4% of the total FSO Corps), the Task Force should be given a mandate to explore and report on parallel minority problems. The end product should be a series of recommendations and pervasive commitment on how the Department can improve its EEO profile in less than what was described as a “glacial pace” by a recent syndicated column on women at State.5

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, General Administrative Correspondence Files of the Deputy Under Secretary for Management, 1968–75: Lot 78 D 295, M Chron, July 1975 (1). No classification marking. Sent through Samuel M. Pinckney (M/EEO ). A handwritten notation indicates that the memorandum was forwarded to Laise for review and comment on July 31. Prince also served as deputy to Deputy Assistant Secretary Pinckney in M/EEO (see footnote 2, Document 124).
  2. In May, the Department and the AFSA instituted a new program designed to promote the mid-level hiring of women and minorities and “ensure that the diversity of American society is represented in the senior ranks of the [Foreign] Service more rapidly than is possible solely through junior officer level intake.” Up to 20 individuals per year would enter the program and would be evaluated by a special review panel. Beginning May 6, the Department held briefings for 150 senior level officers on equal employment opportunity issues, focusing on employee discrimination complaint, and the Department’s current status on the employment of women and minorities. A private contracting firm, hired by the Department to assess equal opportunities for employment, interviewed 50 people representing a cross-section of the work force in order to gauge employee perceptions. (Department of State Newsletter, June 1975, p. 11)
  3. The tabs are attached but not printed.
  4. See “Education, Credit, Sports . . . Barriers to Women Keep Falling,” U.S. News and World Report, July 21, 1975, pp. 21–22.
  5. The task force was not created, although the idea was revived in January 1976. See Document 152. The column was not further identified.