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Project November 5, 2021

The Woman Behind the State Department’s New Direction


One woman alone can't change 232 years of systemic and cultural exclusion, inequality, and neglect. But there is one woman who is trying—that's Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken appointed the 30-year veteran of the diplomatic corps as the Department of State's first Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. Less than three months into a new presidential administration, this appointment has nonetheless been a long time coming. Just recently, it follows a slew of articles and reports on the structural barriers, absences of diversity and inclusion measures, and vast exodus of Foreign Service Officers from the department.

Ambassador Ambercrombie-Winstanley is crafting a plan to lay a foundation for change. Guided by the pillars of intentionality, transparency, and accountability, the ambassador lays out her strategy to address the structural challenges at the State Department, including utilizing funding for new resources to recruit, train, and retain a first-rate and diverse global workforce, with nearly 500 additional Foreign and Civil Services positions—the largest staffing increase in a decade.

Kayla Smith recently sat down with the ambassador in her new office at the State Department headquarters in Washington, D.C., to learn more about her plans to move the department forward with diversity and inclusion at the forefront.