With Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken looking on, Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, delivers remarks at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on April 12, 2021. (State Department photo by Freddie Everett)

Department of State Appoints Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley as Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer

The Department of State has appointed Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley as Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer (CDIO).

President Biden has made clear that prioritizing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility is a national security imperative.

Making the announcement, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said the department “simply isn’t as inclusive as it needs to be”.

“Last year, the Government Accountability Office found that racial or ethnic minorities in the department’s Civil Service were up to 29 percent less likely to be promoted than their white peers with similar qualifications,” Blinken said. “The report also found that the higher up you went in the department, the lower the proportion was of women and racial or ethnic minorities.”

“We can’t sweep it under a rug and pretend it doesn’t exist.  This work is hard, it can be painful, but it’s going to make us better diplomats, and it will help us do right by the people on our team who have for too long waged this battle alone. It’ll also show other countries that we’re practicing what we preach when it comes to working to advance equality and respect here at home.”

Amb. Abercrombie-Winstanley’s appointment as CDIO is the first of its kind at the State Department. She will report directly to Blinken and develop a robust framework for fostering diversity and inclusion in the workforce. She’ll also be entrusted with aligning and advancing diversity and inclusion efforts across the department.

Blinken said Abercrombie-Winstanley will help finalize and then implement the Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan, which – for the first time – was developed with representatives of every bureau, as well as bureau and post diversity councils and employee affinity groups. The Secretary added that promoting diversity and inclusion is the job of every single member of the department.

“That includes me. I’ve been working in national security and foreign policy for a while now, and I know there is more I could have done to push for and lead change on these issues. And that’s true of so many people who have the privilege of serving in leadership positions.”

Amb. Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley has 30 years of diplomatic experience. After joining the Foreign Service in 1985, she served in posts around the world, from Jeddah to Malta, on issues ranging from counterterrorism to gender equality.

It is also worth noting that Abercrombie-Winstanley recently served as a co-chair of the Truman Center for National Policy’s task force on transforming the State Department. There, she helped shape a report filled with groundbreaking recommendations for modernizing America’s lead foreign-affairs agency based on the principles of rebuilding trust, championing diversity, and promoting innovation.

Jenna Ben-Yehuda, President and CEO of the Truman Center for National Policy and Truman National Security Project, has applauded Secretary Blinken for appointing Ambassador Abercrombie-Winstanley to this critical new role.

“Ambassador Abercrombie-Winstanley is a dedicated champion for diversity in foreign affairs who is both a visionary thinker about the future we must build and who possesses a deep understanding of the bureaucratic structures and practices that have limited progress in the past,” said Ben-Yehuda. “Secretary Blinken’s selection of Ambassador Abercrombie-Winstanley bespeaks a seriousness of commitment to advancement and change that is commendable. This is a sign that the Department is ready to do the work and Ambassador Abercrombie-Winstanley is the right woman for the job.”  

Blinken said Abercrombie-Winstanley “won’t be afraid to tell us where we’re coming up short. And when she does, it’s on us to listen and act.”

Abercrombie-Winstanley said “I believe that we, the Department of State, should and can become in the field of inclusion a leader.  Indeed, we have the talent to become the model for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workforce.

“We are at a particular time in America, and the world is watching us.  As the Secretary said, we all share in the responsibility to ensure that each of us feels that we are not only having the opportunity to excel, but we are expected to reach our full potential.

“With our focus now on identifying and implementing the structural changes necessary to bring it about, we will ensure that the Department of State becomes the organization that deserves the devotion, the sacrifice, and the dedication that so many of us have freely given. We can do this.”

Read the transcript of Secretary Blinken’s announcement at the Department of State

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Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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