The Conference on Diversity in International Affairs brings together college and graduate students and young professionals from diverse backgrounds for plenaries on foreign policy topics, seminars on professional development, and opportunities to interact virtually with senior foreign policy professionals. The 2021 conference featured a keynote session with President of the Ford Foundation Darren Walker.
The 2021 Conference on Diversity in International Affairs is a collaborative effort by the Council on Foreign Relations, the Global Access Pipeline, and the International Career Advancement Program. For information about the conference in previous years, please click here.
The murder of George Floyd last summer catalyzed an anti-racism protest movement that echoed around the world. Global protests, mostly in support of Black Lives Matter, lasted for months and were reignited this year after increased attacks on Asian Americans and other communities of color. This panel discussed the direct relationship between race, racism, and U.S. policy; the role of protests and the media in prompting discourse about that relationship; and how racism at home affects U.S. credibility abroad.
Darren Walker discussed his experience spearheading organizational change in the field of philanthropy and foreign policy and the lessons he has learned along the way, including his work championing diversity at high levels, navigating the COVID-19 crisis, and his thoughts on the future of the workforce.
This panel focused on the rise of global nationalism and its effects on marginalized populations around the world who are often excluded from a popular national identity, including nationalist movements in England, Germany, Spain, France, and India, as well as campaigns elsewhere against religious and ethnic minorities. This meeting discussed the popularity of these movements and how their political success has exacerbated racial, religious, and cultural divides within these countries.
STAFF: This event is presented by the Council on Foreign Relations.
PANDITH: Well, good afternoon to everyone. Welcome to the second plenary session for the Council on Foreign Relations 2021 Program on Diversity in International Affairs. I want to welcome our distinguished panel to our session on nationalism around the world, a very small topic. And the four experts that are with us, we're really honored to have here at the Council, so I want to thank them for taking part. Arturo Valenzuela is at Georgetown. Heather Conley is at CSIS. Kanchan Chandra is at NYU. And Kehinde Togun is at Humanity United. You have all of their bios in your packets. My name is Farah Pandith, and I'm an adjunct senior fellow at the Council and I'll be presiding over the session today. Our hope is to have an engaged conversation with the panelists, but also engage you in the conversation through the questions at about the twenty-five, thirty-minute mark. So be thinking about that and I'll give you instructions on how to take part at that time. Let's begin with a definition of what a nation is and what a state is, so that we're all on the same page. Arturo, would you be kind enough to give us your thoughts on that?
VALENZUELA: We'll look, thanks very much, I really appreciate it participating with you and everybody else, and all of the folks that are signing in with us. One thing to remember is that state sovereignty is a relatively recent phenomenon in world history. You know, it really wasn't until the United Nations was founded that states around the world were able to get the validation for their as a sort of sovereignty. And, of course, that took place in 1945 in San Francisco. And, you know, there were not that many countries signed up in San Francisco to become members, the United Nations. In fact, the first group was 50. Of those 50, 21 were from the Americas, including Canada, the rest of them were Latin American countries. So this is a relatively new phenomena. Today, of course, we know that there are 193 members of the UN, although 99 of those 93 members hadn't become members of the United Nation, until after the 1960s. So this is a relatively new phenomenon. Now let me go to more to your questions. It's clear that nationalist tendencies have been very, very important in bringing about sovereign states. But in many states, and this is what I want to try to emphasize. In many states not all of the population feels united or feels kindred spirit with the rest of the folks in the country. So this is one of those situations where the Italians call irredenta and that is where sub-alternate loyalties become more important than the overall national loyalty.
And what if you have differing sub-alternate loyalties, then there really is a significant problem with that. Particularly, of course, when the states are coming out of large empires or they're legacies of wars, etc., etc., etc. You know, so it's not just a matter of linguistics, it's also a matter of ethnic divisions, it's a matter of religious divisions, and so on and so forth. So one has to ask oneself, what is then is the definition of the nation state. And here's where I would like to sort of make a precision and I'm happy to give credit to my mentor, Juan Linz at Yale University with whom I wrote many different works over the years, who with Al Stepan came out with a book in which they made a distinction between what they call nation states and state nations. Now what is a nation state? A nation state is that entity where the population as a whole feels a kindred commonality with the rest, even if there may be some differences in linguistic backgrounds, and so on, so forth, they come together, and that happens much more than a country with rule of law and democracy and so on, so forth. But in state nations, you have the problem that that many of the constituent units within that particular nation may in fact, prefer to ally with some of their ethnic groups, or geographical groups or linguistic groups that might be in other boundaries and therefore, are rebelling against that. And one of the real problems that we have with nationalism today is to what degree is nationalism then something that is tearing a country asunder? You know, or to what extent is nationalism is something that's bringing us together? And so again, let's make the distinction between nation states where everybody can agree to disagree, you know, and democracy rule of law is very important for that to happen, but also between state nations where it's not clear at all that you have that commonality that's very important to avoid the Italian phenomenon, irredenta, sub-alternate loyalties trumping the national loyalty. So I'll stop with that.
PANDITH: I really appreciate that explanation want to make sure that everybody on the panel has a chance to comment on this, or can we proceed? Does anybody want? Okay, then, Arturo, since we have you live, why don't we start with the Western Hemisphere. And if you could just talk us through a little bit about what's happening with nationalism in that part of the world
VALENZUELA: Well look, as I already anticipated in my previous remark, the countries of the Western Hemisphere are the not only the oldest sort of nation states. And I use the word nation state with some confidence, because there really are no irredentist movements in the Western Hemisphere. Canada, of course, came closest to that. And I'm talking about Latin America primarily. And there is a phenomenon in the Caribbean that, of course, cuts much closer to that. So in Latin America, what you have essentially are fairly constituted nation states, where there has been some irredentist movements, again, in Canada, it's (inaudible) as de Gaulle famously put it, you know, when he was trying to egg on Quebec. But Canada today, everybody's recognizes a nation state, because there's an acceptance, essentially, of this division. That is both historical as well as linguistic and in cultural, and so on and so forth, that goes back.
Now, with the rest of, of Latin America, let me let me remind you that there was a very important event, I happen to have to manage it, because at the time I was in the State Department in charge of the relationship with Mexico. On the first of January of 1994, Subcomandante Marcos, Under Commander Marcos in Mexico, had an uprising in southern Mexico. And he demanded immediately—but he was not demanding that, in fact, that the Mayan people of southern Mexico together with Mayans in Central America, and others, constitute themselves into a different nation state or a different sovereign state. They weren't asking for permission to get into the United Nations, as South Sudan recently did, which was the last country ever to join the UN. And that happened in 2011.
So these are relatively constituted nation states. Nationalism is not something that's tearing countries asunder. Now, I'll finish with this, however, because I'm mindful of the time, and that is that that does not mean that there aren't really significant problems that stemmed from historical realities. And one of the most important problems, of course, is the fact that many indigenous groups in countries with large indigenous populations feel in fact that they are mistreated, that they're not participating equally within the society. They're not asking to secede from the country or to create and to separate nation state. It's not an issue of nationalism. It's an issue much more of equity, equality, fair treatment, rule of law, and that sort of thing. And that is something not to be dismissed lightly. There's a really serious crisis of we can see from the protests in the region, that are similar to protests and other places in the world, where people are asking for is essentially to be treated with dignity.
PANDITH: Well, this issue of—thank you—this issue of dignity and being heard is a really important one that we I know, we will come back to. I'm curious candidate as you think about the growth of nationalism in Sub Saharan Africa, how you see the trends that have changed and what's actually taking place, one of the things that we see on TV is the impact of some of these trends with COVID. And how it affects minorities. So could you speak to the issues of what how you see things in that part of the world at this moment?
TOGUN: Sure. Thanks for and I will begin where Arturo started, sort of began his talk in terms of African countries, many of whom had boundaries drawn for them, right. So the idea that these countries were not in silos like they were created from something else. And I think sort of them moving on to the independence movement. And I think a lot of the independence activists that we had on the African continent were folks who used nationalism as a cause celeb and said we need to be our own country. So the colonizers need to go away. So I think that there's a core sense of nationalism at the very beginning of many African countries' founding in the 1960s, for most of them, right. And I think that within them because many of them are at the same time as a pan Africanism, and the idea that all of us are of the same ilk, and all of us are in coalition in concert with each other. So I think that there's a nationalism of Pan Africanism, for me sort of run in similar trends or in similar streams. And then I think, even within civil society today, or like within political leadership, there's still a lot of that pan Africanist sense that that exists. I will say, though, that I think in many African countries, nationalism has become a tool for authoritarians. So the idea that you have folks like President Museveni in Uganda, or the late President Mugabe in Zimbabwe, or the late President in Tanzania, who sort of use this idea of nationalism as a way to squash opposition as a way to sort of dismiss dissent, and say, these are Western values.
So like these, the things that we are doing here is what we want to be doing, and in what in reality, what's happening is like these outsiders are coming to pollute our country, our country, or countries. I do think that there is a nationalism as it becomes a tool, or a cudgel for to stem opposition, right. And I think we've seen this, some of this during the COVID pandemic, in terms of like how countries have said, we're responding to COVID as a national crisis. So the best thing to do is trust us as your leaders to do what's best. But what that has often meant is, we're not going to let you gather for protests, because we don't want you to get COVID. Or we are going to scapegoat marginalized populations, like LGBT populations, or women's groups. And we're going to squash dissent in that way. So I do think that they're in the 2020-2021, year, or mostly 2020, at the height of COVID, or at the beginning of COVID, there was a lot of over securitized responses that we saw that were unfortunate, and that we've done so in the name of protecting one's country.
I will say, though, just coming back to this idea of like the pan Africanism that I continue to be inspired by or motivated, or great to see is the idea that they're still, even in spite of that attempt to squash that you still see civil society organizations who are mobilizing activists. Who are actively mobilizing and sort of using their own version of nationalism of like, it's our country first, right? So like you had Mugabe using country first to squash opposition, and you now have leaders who are saying we need to make our country better. So country first means we are going to continue to mobilize and activate and get people to get out and do things right, then we sort of saw the Solidarity Movement that's happening. If you think of the Zimbabwe Lives Matter, and SARS movement that happened in Nigeria and sort of seeing these cross currents, where there is like an active group of folks who are saying we will, our country matters to us. And we're going to do what it takes to protect. It's sort of interesting to see the ways to define nationalism and how that's played across from civil society through government responses.
PANDITH: It's really fascinating. And I'm interested in the terminology that these countries are using, it's very reflective of some of the rhetoric that's happening here in the United States. And I hope we can talk about that, on how things are ricocheting around the world. I am interested because we talked definition now. Kanchan, as we think about democracy, and we think about nationalism, what is the overlap, what is the connection. And then also, if you can be, if you could go deep a little bit on one particular country in Asia, India, and talk to us about what you are seeing there, and the new sort of nationalistic waves that have affected not just what's happening COVID, but more broadly,
CHANDRA: Of course, of course. I want to say, first of all, I'm just so happy to be here and to meet the panelists, but also all of you who are here, at least in spirit, we can't meet physically, but at we can see you but very happy to be in the same space. I want to just say maybe some maybe something first on democracy. With nationalism, Arturo defined the state nation. But I also wanted to say, when it comes to the nation, I think of the nation in Benedict Anderson's terms as an imagined community. This is an imagined community of equals that is limited and sovereign. Limited in the sense there are always insiders and outsiders, and sovereign in the sense that there is a territory with the governments that controls it. And nationalism, you know, even when you have a nation state formed, I think one important aspect of nationalism is that it is perennially fluid. It is never a finished project. And so if we think of it in renounced terms as something of a daily plebiscite, and I think what we see is happening in the world now is the emergence of second and third nationalisms, and I'll say something about that in a moment. So you know, it is interesting, as Arturo pointed out, nations are a very recent phenomenon, really, from say the 1950s and 1960s onwards. And what is interesting to me is that democracy is a very recent phenomenon as well. And the two really grew up together.
Democracy arrived in the world earlier, but it's really sort of post-World War Two that you really see the age of democracy. Including in the democracies, we think of as the oldest or the prototypical ones. In England and the U.S., to the UK and the U.S., democracy, really liberal democracy, as we know, it really settled down after the Second World War. And you know, one of the things I see is I think there is this absolutely sort of close link between the two, because we think of democracy as a rule by the people. And anytime we think of the people, there are two things that are important. There's always this notion, democracy is a limited community too. There are rights for those who are the people, and all bets are off for those who are not the people. And that coincides very easily with the idea of a nation too as a limited community. The second aspect of democracy as we understand. There have been all these ways to define it away. But it is a stubborn idea, the idea of democracy as majority rule. And even when we have different ways of imagining democracy, the idea of the majority as being the legitimate decision maker in a democracy sooner or later creeps in. And this is essential to I think what we we're sort of seeing in nationalism today. I think after the Second World War, there were two kinds of nationalisms that were predominant. One was this idea of sort of a nation states, the idea that you had an imagined community among the nation that coincided with the territory of the state. And the second, as Arturo pointed out, was minority nationalisms, you know, looking for either rights or dignity within the same state offers a session or autonomy. But what you see now, what is new about the world in the twenty-first century, is the emergence of majority nationalisms and they are not looking for sort of just dignity or better treatment, or secession or autonomy, majority nationalisms are looking to remake the state in their own image. And these are one would say, the three countries I'm thinking of particularly, India, certainly, which is what I study, and the U.S., and the UK. You see the emergence of majority nationalisms.
These are in each case, they are the second or third nationalism, you could say the United States' first nationalism was civic nationalism. And now you see an ethnic racial nationalism. With Britain, I think it's hard to tell whether it's race or whether it's a broader idea of Britishness, but again, one nationalism earlier around the idea of the state, and a new one now around the notion of an ethnic community. Similarly, in India, with Hindu nationalism. This nationalism is, I think, particularly hard. The consequences are quite pernicious. But I think the thing that really strikes me is, we read so much about nationalism as being a perversion of democracy. And of course, as Kehinde pointed out nationalism can also be used to justify authoritarian policies. But the thing that strikes me is how much nationalism is a culmination. It is a product of the inherent fragility within the notion of democracy. And I think until we address the inherently exclusive nature of democracy, and the idea that the people there, there are chosen people, but those who are outside the chosen people, there's sort of no clear rights within the regimes governing them. Essentially, what happens to those who are not the people. And I think what we see in all of these nationalisms, certainly with Hindu nationalism in India, and with majority nationalisms elsewhere, is this constant "othering" of those who are not the majority. And sort of the abolition of the line between those who are minorities, and those who are simply outsiders. Knowing this is something I think, which is kind of unique to the 21st century, and I think particularly dangerous. Let me stop here.
PANDITH: Thank you so much, that was very, really wonderful to hear, because it just sort of helped unpack some of the complexity around these terms and how they're related. So thank you very much for that. Heather, we're going to turn to Europe now. And so much is going on over there. I want to just start with asking you, you know, in the most modern recent times the shift that's taking place, and if you can unpack that a little bit for us, and then if you have some time, can you talk to us about some parallels that you might see between Europe and the United States.
CONLEY: Well Farah, thank you so much. I always say I studied Europe to understand the United States. So perhaps we can have that discussion. I want to just start with sort of a really modern and positive nationalism that occurred, you think about this as a modern phenomenon. The first time that it was really acceptable to fly the German flag very publicly was actually in 2006 during the World Cup. That was the first time. Really it was a way that you could show German nationalism in a very positive way. And I think all of us think about positive nationalism in sporting events, the Olympics USA or you're rooting for your team. There's something that's as positive and confident about healthy nationalism, but of course, here we're talking about destructive or negative nationalism. So I just want to raise I think three important trends that are helping to drive a variety of nationalistic sentiments in Europe today. The first I think this is the one that's going to have the resonance with most of us, particularly in the United States, is really globalization. If you feel as if you are losing power, if things are changing so fast, so dramatically, what you understood is your culture, your traditions, your religion, your place in society. If all of that is changing, you cling to something that has power, and that power is the nation you sort of transfer or you transfer that power. So if I am making America great again, or Europe, great again, in my country, I'm making myself great again. So there's this this connectiveness, about identity and power, what makes you unique, where are you from? And that's that source of identity.
Of course, this was absolutely crystallized in the French presidential election in 2017. When Marine Le Pen, who is the leader of the far-right Rassemblement National party, she posed a question to the French people. Are you a globalist? Or are you a patriot? You cannot be both. If you're a patriot, your country is the most important thing. And you will defend that country from all the migration and terrorism and this change that is coming. If you're a globalist, you support all of this change. So globalization in some ways, is really driving this negative nationalism that's trying to cling to the past and prevent that change. Because many benefited from globalization, many did not benefit. The second trend, I would argue, is really Europe is still dealing with the traumas of the 20th century. There is a reason why the Germans didn't wave their flag until really 2006. Because German nationalism destroyed Europe twice in the 20th century. But we're also seeing a very unique form of ethnonationalism appear in Central Europe, Poland, Hungary, in the Western Balkans, in particular. And these are peoples now dealing with trauma. They were unable to when they regain their independence, the countries of Central Europe focus singularly on NATO enlargement, European Union enlargement, and they knew they needed to put that history aside in order to achieve those objectives. they achieved those objectives.
And now, they have to begin to rectify with a very traumatic past, you add demographic decline and migration, and you have someone feeling very under assault, that their identity, their survivability of their population, and their language is under attack. So what did they cling to? A religion, the Christian values, and the state then protects those. So in part, you're seeing where those traumas are being replayed. And nationalism, modern nationalism is forming that very much a political tool. Absolutely, this is a political tool of government control to eliminate opposition, but it's a very, very strong tool.
The last trend you might be surprised by because it's a positive thing. I think the European Union contributes to nationalism and what I would call fragmentation. This is particularly the case in Catalonia in Spain, or even Scotland in the United Kingdom. If Catalonia and Scotland can be part of something bigger, like the European Union, do they still have to be a member of Spain, of the United Kingdom, and this is actually giving license to encourage that separate identity. And this is something that the European Union is struggling with greatly, because on the one hand, they of course, respect the sovereignty of their member states. But at the same time, these forces of fragmentation, you still see in Italy today between North and South, Belgium is a perfect example of that fragmentation. So in some ways, the European Union allows or encourages that fragmentation for some. So these are powerful trends that aren't going away anytime soon. And they're certainly feeding elements of destructive nationalism. And we hope that future nationalism can be much more of a positive, unified approach. Farah, back over to you.
PANDITH: Thanks so much, Heather. And that was really helpful, obviously, some of what you said made bells go off because I was thinking about what was happening in our own country. I do want to ask the whole panel to answer this question for me. Should America care about what's happening with nationalism on the rise around the world and in the areas that you've just described? Is this something that is a concern or is it just part of human history? Arturo, you are on mute for some reason.
VALENZUELA: United States you mean or America?
PANDITH: Yes, excuse me. I'm in the United States. Exactly.
VALENZUELA: Because some of the rest of us are Americans too. Whether we're from Argentina or some other place. But look, let me just, a couple of comments. One to how wrong Fukuyama was when he said that, in fact, with the end of the Cold War, we will be facing, you know, the flowering of liberal democracy. You know, he's amended his views and so on and so forth. That the truth of the matter is that the Cold War, in some ways froze history, froze history. And the end of the Cold War, instead of leading to this flowering of liberal democracy actually, very much along the lines of what Kehinde said and others have said, it made it possible then, for the Pandora's box of all these horrible things that were sort of frozen during this time to come out again, including the bitterness of some of the ethnic nationalisms and in the corruption and the authoritarianism that we are seeing right now. Now, to get to the United States. I don't want to lose that trend. There's no question that what we saw here in the United States was an effort on the part of the United States to retreat really from the world. To retreat from the architecture really.
We talked about 1945, the founding of the United Nations that was Dean Acheson. That was the Truman administration. That was before Bretton Woods. That was the creation of the creation as Dean Acheson's book itself says, you know, Present at the Creation, all of that is, it was something that the previous administration in the United States decided that they were going to get rid of. And appealing to a reactionary nationalism. I'm going to emphasize the word reactionary, because it's a reactionary nationalism, in the sense that it represents only a very small percentage of the population. You know, a percentage, and the hardliners are really a small percentage of the population and where they're concerned about, they're concerned about the fact that we're losing in this world and we're going to define ourselves in terms of the stark nationalism of you have to be from Northern Europe, you have to be white, you have to be this, that and the other. Completely rejecting the notion that the United States is a nation of immigrants. The United States is a nation that thrived as a nation of immigrants. The United States, in fact if anything, has a promising future, if it continues to be a nation of immigrants. It's got a real problem if in fact, it winds up like some other nations in restricting immigration and you have the aging population and all those sorts of trends that are taking place right now. But there's just simply no question.
Now, why did it happen in the United States? In some ways, it goes back to the Nixon strategy, it goes back to, oh, well, look, how do we bring the Republican party to equal the Democratic party, which was three to two larger than that Republican party, Nixon came up with the idea of the southern strategy, and the southern strategy was to pull, you know, the racist south in some ways into the Republican party, and that then set the stage for this sort of thing. I wrote my own honors thesis as an undergraduate on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the United States, and one of my heroes was Everett McKinley Dirksen. I was on the Hill every day interviewing all these people. And if it hadn't been for the Minority Leader of the U.S. Senate, a Republican, Everett McKinley Dirksen, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, would not have been approved, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 would not have been approved. Anyway, we're living the consequences of that. And this is a nation of immigrants. It's a nation where we've always been proud of what the immigrants have contributed. And that's the future of the country. And some people have a reactionary view of the future, and they want to blame others for the problems of the world. And that's the thing. It's the politics of blame. It's the politics of blame and the use of authoritarian instruments in order to support the politics of blame.
PANDITH: Many of the themes that you're talking about, Heather sort of echoed in how she was describing what was happening in Europe, and we're seeing it here in the United States play out. But I want to go back to what I asked. Because I am curious, I mean, we're, we're looking at the beginning of a new administration as they are building their priorities and the way they're positioning themselves around the world. How should the United States be thinking about the trends of nationalism as we look at things? Kanchan, Kehinde, Heather?
CHANDRA: I can jump in on that. You know, I think one of the interesting things is what's happening in the U.S., I would say particularly around sort of in the last few years, is I think the emergence of the mass nationalism, which is very new to the U.S. I mean, there has been sort of an idea of a majority Aryan identity, sometimes that came in, through state institutions through the court system and legal codes, but the mass nationalism is new. And now here's one reason to pay attention to the rest of the world is in many other parts of the world, and certainly in South Asia, also, I think, in parts of Europe, mass nationalism is a much older phenomenon. And so there are two things, I think that say, particularly the South Asian phenomenon, which I think are very instructive for the U.S. One is majoritarian nationalisms, always, always, at their heart, represent the interests of a minority, you know, and sometimes many minorities. So I think it's very dangerous, even when we think about the U.S. to think about a majority. I think it makes more sense to think of the many minorities who are included within that label. I think it is actually not always a popular idea. But I think it makes sense to think of those minorities within that larger majoritarian label with some sense of empathy. I think there's too much demonization in the world of nationalism.
And as a result, you end up not being able to understand each other at all. And I think majoritarian nationalisms become in a way, less threatening, easy to understand and easier to respond if we look beyond the majoritarian curtain and look at the minorities back behind that curtain. And I think the second thing which the U.S. needs to learn from the course of nationalisms elsewhere, is precisely because the idea of a majority is such a fragile idea, it never lasts. And I think if we look at South Asia, we had the emergence of Muslim nationalism that produced Pakistan. And then we had the emergence of a Bengali nationalism that produced Bangladesh. And now we have sectarian differences within the idea of Islam. And so even to those who seek a home within the comfort of a majoritarian identity, there is no such thing. And so even in the pursuit of that kind of comfort, it's not clear that majoritarian nationalism is the route to go. And so here, I think the U.S. has a lot to learn, not just to care about but a lot to learn from the trajectory of mass nationalisms in other parts of the world.
PANDITH: I really, I really appreciate you saying what you did. I'm going to let Heather and Kehinde come in, in any way you would like before we turn to questions. And I'm going to say to the participants, in the next five minutes, we will open it up to you. So please do raise your hand if you have a question. Kehinde please go ahead. I see you unmute.
TOGUN: Yes. And I would just echo Kanchan's point greatly. I think, for me the last I think for many of us, the last four years, were a reminder that the U.S., the idea of U.S. exceptionalism, really is a flawed concept. If it ever was real, given, like the history of slavery and everything else in this country, and who was American to begin with, right? I think there's lots of questions we had about that. But having said that, I think the last four years really just drove home that we have these problems at home, and we perhaps have underscored, we've not explored them enough, or we've not focused on them enough, right? So I think in terms of how the U.S. can engage or should engage, for me, it's the concept of humility, and realizing that we have a lot to learn ourselves. And we have our own concerns and issues of who is part of our nationalism, who is an American? And who are we? Who are marginalized and who are not part of the national conversation? So how do we join others in creating identities that are whole and that are inclusive of other folks? Or I think, for me, similar to Kanchan that's where I would love for us to focus of not, how do we support the rest of the world to like stamp out authoritarianism or stamp out nationalism, but how do we learn from other folks and join in this movement of, we can all we all have our own concerns, and we need to do better at home and abroad.
PANDITH: Well said, I completely agree. Really well. Nice. Heather, would you want to comment?
CONLEY: Let's very briefly, I mean, nationalism destabilizes countries, and that is why from an American foreign security policy standpoint, we don't want more instability. If you think about in the twentieth century, European nationalism required the United States to intervene militarily twice, well, actually three times if you consider when the former Yugoslavia collapsed, and there was ethnonationalism and genocide, ethnic cleansing. So this is a destabilizing element, which is why you want to use your tools, your foreign policy tools, your diplomacy, to make sure that that nationalism particularly in Europe, we see the very destructive nationalism from NATO allies, such as Hungary, such as Poland, such as Turkey, that's we have to have a very strong conversation with our allies and partners who we have a very sacred security and defense relationship, to say, this has to stop and those allies have to look into our eyes and say you have to stop when your nationalism destabilizes my country. So you know that's the message, destructive nationalism destabilizes.
PANDITH: I think that's so important. And we often don't think about the impact of what's happening in our country to other parts of the world. And that's what I was getting at earlier, when Kehinde was talking about the terminology that was being used in Africa and India and other parts of the world actually, were they're reflecting on the success of the Trump model and how identity and belonging was described and what can move the emotional forces that began to peel apart a nation. So there's a lot to unpack here and I'm sure that our participants have many questions. I'm going to turn to Teagan, who is on the other side of this CFR 100 slide, to go to the questions and answers and please let our guests know how to ask a question.
STAFF: (Gives queueing instructions). Our first question will be a written submission from Saúl Ulloa, who asks, how does white nationalism in the U.S. and its international counterparts fit into the definitions provided at the beginning of this conversation? Is the term a misnomer?
PANDITH: I'm going to throw that to Arturo since he was referring to your definition. So I'll let you go first, and then the others can join in.
VALENZUELA: Right, I think that it's a good question. And, unfortunately, for a small sector of the population, because I still continue to believe that, that the really hard card hardcore is a disappearing hardcore within the United States. Now, that doesn't mean that the electoral turnout wasn't very high for President Trump. And that kind of thing. I don't want to belittle that in any way. But clearly you have that kind of a situation. But I'm fairly optimistic that we're moving in the right direction right now with that. We have not gotten into a situation where, where we are a state nation, we are still a nation state. And we are still a nation state because I think so many people did come to see the protection of American democracy. American democracy did not collapse. Quite the contrary, what happened was essentially, it was touch and go, it was extremely scary for those of us who were hoping that, in fact, the previous government would leave office. They still have the big lie out there, and so on so forth. But the judiciary came through at the state level, all the people who are working on elections that came through, and then fundamentally, the future of the country really is with a very diverse country. It's a diverse country, it's a diverse country. And we need to embrace that diversity, we need to sort of benefit from the diversity. And as even as I said earlier, the country will simply continue to be great if in fact, it opens its doors to more immigrants in the future, rather than the reverse. And then just let me say one other thing. International organizations are absolutely critical in all this sort of thing. We need to continue to strengthen international organizations that we move forward. I just wanted to throw that in as a small tidbit.
PANDITH: I'm glad you did. I'm glad you raised them. Thank you. Kanchan, you have your—
CHANDRA: I could jump in on that. You know, it is interesting, I think I have a different way of looking at the U.S. perhaps than Arturo. I don't think the U.S. has ever been a nation state. I think if we look at the exclusions on a racial basis, the fact that until the Voting Rights Act, African Americans, the majority of African Americans were not registered to vote. Similarly, with Native Americans, I feel that what you have had in the U.S. is sort of a history of exclusions that lasted until very late. And so here, but where it fits into the definition, if I think of a nation as an imagined community, I think what you had in the U.S. until sort of the early part of the twenty-first century, is white privilege without white nationalism. You can have a set majoritarian privilege without a sense of communal identity. But now what is emerging is also a sense of an imagined community. But also what is very interesting is that that what counts as white in the U.S. now is not the same thing as what counted is in as white in the U.S. in the '50s. And so a book by Eric Kaufmann called Whiteshift is also talking about how that notion of white is being expanded in many cases to include migrants. So I think it's a complex reality. But the sense of an imagined community in the U.S. is a recent phenomenon.
PANDITH: Thank you for that. Does anybody else want to comment on the question? Before we go to the next one?
CONLEY: I'll just jump in and just for a second because I think we did see some attempt, it didn't succeed, at organizing sort of a far right International. Sort of like-minded groups, particularly those that were against migration. Holding to traditional or Christian values. There was an attempt, Steve Bannon was sort of the leading face of trying to create a transatlantic, far-right International. It didn't work, in part because these leaders use nationalism as a political tool. And what works for one leader in Italy won't work in France, they have to pick those fear factors that help, again, that drive that nationalism, there's commonalities but there are these great international linkages. We've seen this, obviously, with the identarian movement, the great replacement, this spans the globe. And this is where social networks really do amplify this. But as I said, from looking at the U.S.-European efforts to create a broader international movement, it did fail, because political leaders do use very bespoke policies to advance their own political survival in their own countries.
PANDITH: Excellent. Teagan, let's go to the next question. So we can move we only have 15 minutes. I'm just looking at the clock. Sorry.
STAFF: Certainly, we'll take our next question from Sarah Hunaidi.
CONLEY: So sorry, for the speakers. I am Sarah Hunaidi. I am affiliated currently with Syria Campaign, and I'm a political asylee here in the United States from Syria. And I wanted to ask, it's interesting, no one mentioned the Middle East, especially, you know, a lot of things are happening at the moment, and they've always been happening. But as Professor Kanchan Chandra mentioned that nationalism is an imagined community and of course, there's a lot of books about that. It fascinates me as someone who grew up in Assad's Syria, how their imagined community is different than, for example, people who called in the streets for their own imagined community. So it's about like creation of a shared nation. But I'm wondering how important it is, or like, I believe that currently we are, or I hope that we are beyond these leaders that we grew up with, and we are trying to reimagine our own communities. So for people who are, with PhDs, and did a lot of research on that, anything that can be useful in this regard of how do we imagine community in 2021? Especially if we are, for example, exiled? How can we imagine a pluralistic community? Pluralistic nation? Yeah, I know, hard, big question, but I would appreciate anything. Thank you.
PANDITH: Thank you very much, Sarah. Who wants to jump in?
VALENZUELA: I'll jump in. Look, I have a lot of faith that the younger generations are in a different mindset, there is a greater degree of tolerance, there's a greater degree of universalism, of internationalism, and this kind of thing. So I have this, this faith that the younger people are on a different wavelength with regard to some of these sorts of issues and did not go through the same sorts of narratives that we've described earlier. You know, I couldn't, when I first came into this to this country, a long time, I was very active in the civil rights movements we take very seriously though, the comments that the United States as a nation, deeply failed to even hold up to the ideals of its own constitution, so to speak. But you know, young people today are not there, generally speaking. And I think that that is something that is promising for the future of the world. And the fact is, if two world wars were fought over who owned Alsace-Lorraine, nobody really cares anymore or shouldn't care anymore about who owns Alsace-Lorraine, even if the Japanese buy it.
PANDITH: Appreciate that and since we're talking about sort of the younger generations, I do want to sort of piggyback on that and just ask if you're seeing significant change on the demographic side and what that means for your regions. I mean, I think what Arturo mentioned is a key point. Heather also talked about the impact of technology, which we hadn't raised before. But I mean, obviously, it's happening in every part of the world. Does anybody want to comment on the youth demographic? Sure, please, Heather.
CONLEY: I'm happy to jump in. I think we are seeing again; we will see the resonance here in the United States. This is becoming geographic. Urban areas, where again, the benefits of globalization, young people coming for opportunities, more accepting, looking for those opportunities, wanting to travel, wanting to educate oneself. In some of the rural areas, which are depopulating, elderly voters, this is where there is great resistance, obviously to change. Change is frightening. They're seeing their children and their grandchildren, leaving the villages, trying to seek opportunity, and that's creating a desperation. So you see that divide. I will say that the next generation, absolutely, there is incredible, positive potential there. But I would just have a cautionary note. And again, this is my observation in Europe, there is radicalization occurring in young people because they don't see a positive future for themselves. They cannot get a job, high youth unemployment, they feel the system is working against them. They are following these narratives and the social media networks that are amplifying neo-Nazi sentiment, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, that is on the rise as well. So I think we can be very encouraged. But we also have to be very cautious that some of the same young people are also being radicalized.
PANDITH: I appreciate you saying that, Heather. It's obviously you know that this is something that I study and work on, and it's alarming to me to see that. I'm going to ask Teagan if we can have the next question, please.
STAFF: Certainly, our next question will be a written submission from Diego Garcia, who thanks you all very much for your insight, and asks, what is a book or selection of books you recommend all international affairs scholars to look into to best understand today's global order or lack thereof?
PANDITH: What a great question. I love that. Well, I'm going to go across my screen in the order that I see you to ask for your opinion. Kehinde, you're on my right. So we're going to start with you.
TOGUN: It's less of a book and more sort of thinkers, I guess, is where my mind went. Partially because I'm not an academic like my peers on the panel, but somebody that I sort of read a lot is Anne Marie Slaughter. So both in terms of her written pieces and her short pieces, but also the books that she's written is that something that comes to mind as somebody every international affairs person should be reading. I think Annette Gordon Reed, who's a Jefferson historian at Harvard is another person that I think in terms of thinking of the founding fathers and how one reimagines who they are or sort of contextualize who they are actually is how I would frame it, is another person that I would say, is worth thinking about in the U.S. context.
PANDITH: Awesome. Thank you, Kanchan, you're next on my on my screen.
CHANDRA: Sure and I can actually address that and Sarah, who made this question a moment sort of related. On the book, I think the one book that I'm thinking of is [Kwame] Anthony Appiah's The Lies that Bind. And I think it's not always sort of an easy book to read. But it gives you a framework for thinking about identity that I think gets at Sarah's question. Also, what can you do, I think it's very important not to take nationalism on its own terms. In other words, not to think of people in terms of groups and group categories, to always put the individual front and center. And to always be aware of the diversity within these categories of both majority and minority. when I think focusing on the individual gives you sort of a certain ethical position, and I think Appiah, that book, and the body of writing also helps develop that idea. I think one of the great scholarly missteps has been this idea that in order to respond to ethnic identity, that the idea of responding to ethnic sort of issues, has been to sort of focus on groups and not individuals. I think the reason we take questions of ethnic diversity seriously is because we care about individuals at bottom. And so I think that's sort of an ethical position, and I think that book might is one of the many things that I found helpful.
PANDITH: Really helpful. Thank you so much, Heather, you're next on my screen.
CONLEY: So a very short book that I love is called The Light That Failed: A Reckoning. It's from my favorite person in the whole wide world, Ivan Krastev, one of the best intellectuals, Central European intellectuals, and Stephen Holmes, and what it gets, was Arturo's question about what happened. We thought at the end of the Cold War, victory was ours, the victory of liberal democracies. Why is that not the case? Why are we in a democratic recession right now? What happened? It's very, it does have very specific sense about Central Europe, which I think is the most interesting case study. And one of the most memorable sentences from Ivan and if you follow him, he does wonderful writing in the New York Times. He's just a great intellect. He said, for young people, it is easier to change your country than your illiberal government. And I thought that was just a powerful message. So, The Light that Failed.
PANDITH: Wonderful. Arturo, you're next.
VALENZUELA: Oh, well, look, when I was asked whether I'd participate in this wonderful panel, and I really appreciate the opportunity, I had to go down to my bookcases downstairs in the basement. I'm on my roof right now, practically. And the first book I read was Nationalism by Tagore, and this is one of the real classics in the field, no question about it. This is a—the publication date is 1961. You know, the (inaudible), self-determination, state, and individual excellence of diversity, national (inaudible) determination. But then, you know, the real classic is Reinhard Bendix's book. It's called Nation-Building and Citizenship, which is, again, another classic that I, as you can see, I've marked it over in the past, and I but I hadn't gotten (inaudible) find it. More recently, studies and social change, nation building, and so on. I recommend that strongly. However, the book that, in fact, I turn to most today was one of my coauthors on very many adventures, and that's Juan Linz and Al Stephan, and this book is a much newer book is Crafting State-Nations. India and other multinational democracies, in which they make this distinction between nation, state, and state nation. And I recommend that to you. And this particular book is Johns Hopkins University Press. And this is 2011. So we're talking about jumping across the various different timeframes. I'm a critic of democracy, as I did with this book, that was with Juan Linz, The Failure of Presidential Democracy. I much prefer parliamentary forms of government because, Kehinde, it's much more difficult for that to happen. When you don't have presidents. All you need to do is to take a look and see what happens when presidents start going after the prime ministers and so on and so forth. And then that also leads to this book, Democracies Divided which is one of the problems that we have.
PANDITH: Thank you very, very much. I will say you can find all of these wonderful panelists in places where you can actually reach out to them and get longer list of books and articles. Arturo's at Georgetown. Heather's at CSIS Kanchan is at NYU. Kehinde is at Humanity United. So I urge you to reach out to them if you have more questions. Speaking of questions, we have a lot of questions. So I'm going to ask our panelists in the next six minutes, we're not going to go across the board. Just jump in with short responses so we can get to as many questions as possible. Teagan, please jump in.
STAFF: We will take our next question from Danielle Obisie-Orlu.
Q: Good evening. My name is Danielle Obisie-Orlu. I am a third-year undergraduate student at the University of Pittsburgh and thank you to all the panelists. A part of my research focuses on the different expressions of xenophobia in France, and one of the central facets are the distinctive othering that takes place when French citizens have linked to the former French colonial empire such that national groups, nationalist groups, will make the distinction between (speaking French), which is French from the roots and (speaking French), which is French from citizenship. How does the emergence of nationalist and youth identarian movements across France or Europe, who say that they're acting in the name of keeping France French or protecting European values emphasize who is deemed to belong and who does not? Thank you.
PANDITH: Danielle, a beautiful question. Heather, I want to ask you to answer that quickly.
CONLEY: Well, fascinating topic. Thank you. I'm so glad you're studying it. And this is exactly, you have now teed up the French presidential election for 2022. Exactly that. What makes you French? And can others be included? And I think this is a major cleavage in France right now. It has no good answers to it. And it has the risk of really deeply dividing the society, so I don't have a good answer for you. But it will be a major political topic and I do worry it's going to start pulling at the very fabric of French society. It already has.
PANDITH: You know obviously Heather, this is not just happening in France. This question of how can you prove who you are. I remember a conversation in 2007 or 2008 in Oslo with a Norwegian of Pakistani descent, who said to me, how do you expect me to be Norwegian? Look at my skin, look at my eyes, look at my hair color. So it's across the board. Teagan, please give us another question.
STAFF: We will take our next question from Anisa Antonio.
Hello, my name is Anisa Antonio. Recent college graduate from Wheaton College in Massachusetts. And I'm also familiar with the work of Benedict Anderson and him discussing the role of literature. So my question is, can you be a nation or a nation state without national literature? What is kind of the role of literature when establishing or maintaining a nation? And with that, what are the limitations of national literature? As we have seen in many cases, where literature is biased and or amidst the narratives of contributions of marginalized communities? Thank you.
PANDITH: What a great question. Who would like to take it?
CHANDRA: I can take a stab at it. But, you know, we get a terrific question. It's a really good thing to think but in a new light. The short answer is I think you can. If you look at nationalisms across the board, some of them are deeply rooted in a literary or linguistic movement. I think Serbian nationalism in the former Yugoslavia is an example. And I think other nationalism sort of are rooted primarily in political ideas, or sometimes in a sense of history, but not necessarily literature. Literature often emerges as a product, rather than a precondition of those sorts of nationalisms. I think the nationalism that produced Pakistan is one example. I think Hindu nationalism in India is another. That there are sort of there are works of literature that are emerging in service of that nationalist movement. But they've not, you know, the nationalist movement itself, did not sort of primarily make use of literature to start with and I think sort of the basis in literature can produce very different trajectories for the nationalist movement. But I think the short answer is, there are many nationalisms that are not necessarily literary, perhaps to their cost, perhaps not.
PANDITH: Thank you so much. We have time for one last question. Teagan, if you could?
STAFF: Certainly, we'll take our last question from Jean Ulysse.
Q: Hi, thank you so much for having me. It does seem like the term nationalism when we think about it, the idea of it never died down. And should we be embracing more of a globalism term? And for example, when we look at the U.S. and what happened on January six, right? An attempted coup. And we have most of the people that are attempting that, where they believe in this nationalist country where we're like, okay, we've got to determine this is who we are. This is Trump country, this is a white country, this is what we want the country to be. Should we be like, okay, let's focus more on a global term than nationalist terms since it's not as a diverse framework as it is?
PANDITH: Thank you for the comment. I appreciate that. Is there any response from any of the panelists?
VALENZUELA: I might jump in and just simply say, quickly, if you go to the Roosevelt Memorial, you know, and you go walk through the Roosevelt Memorial here in Washington, FDR Memorial. And you see all the various different themes. We just need to sort of remember what we went through in those periods and learn from that. Ultimately, this is really about being able to come together as an as a country. This is about, you speak Catalan, I speak Spanish. But look, we're both part of the same country and because of that, that's important. So ultimately, it's democracy working, despite the differences that we may have.
PANDITH: That is an excellent note to end on. And I know that other panelists wanted to comment on Jean's question. And I'm sorry, we have to close out our day today with all of you, I want to thank you so much for the time that you spent with us today. I want to thank the panelists with a clap. But I also want to ask the participants to join in in the networking session that is available right after this. And there's a link I think in the chat that gets you there and there should be in the participant pamphlet that you have. But finally, I just want to remind you that you can get the audio of this on the CFR website that will be available. It's been a great conversation today on a really important topic. To Sarah's point, we didn't include the Middle East and I'm very sorry. We didn't have every region of the globe and the Middle East wasn't the only one that was missing. But we did our best. And I want to thank our panelists very much for taking the time and for your extraordinary insights. Have a really good afternoon everyone stay healthy and stay safe. Thank you.
ENG: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today's Council on Foreign Relations Conference on Diversity in International Affairs. This session is on making the transition between the public and private sectors. I'm Catherine Eng and I'll be presiding over today's discussion. We're very excited today to have three well-respected professionals who are inspirational leaders in their roles and communities. They’re each going to discuss their backgrounds and how they got to where they are today. We hope to shed some light and guidance on how to navigate transitioning between the public and private sector as well as the importance for diversity in foreign affairs. Firstly, let me briefly introduce our speakers.
Dr. Dominique Carter is an award-winning scientist, science diplomat, and entrepreneur, recently named among 1,000 inspiring Black scientists in America by Cell Mentor. Dr. Carter currently serves as an agricultural science advisor for the Department of Agriculture, Office of the Chief Scientist, where she supports operational planning and policy development pertaining to agricultural research and education. Dr. Carter was awarded the prestigious AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship at the National Science Foundation and is the founder of Global STEM Solutions, a boutique-consulting firm that provides thought leadership and counsel for developing international partnerships in STEM education and research. Dr. Carter is passionate about the recruitment and retention of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM fields. And she's also an active and leading member in the community in the National Society for Black Engineers, the American Society for Microbiology, Harvard Business Review, and SIA-Africa.
Ms. Rashida Petersen is the East regional director at the Global Fund for Women. Her career has been built on expertise gained from leading major fundraising and development initiatives in developing countries, as well as expanding U.S.-Africa trade and investment working within the development departments of international nonprofits. She's been responsible for annual funding goals of over $16 million in institutional funding, and over $1.3 million cumulative in unrestricted donations. Ms. Petersen also established consulting firm 1847 Philanthropic, and technology startup, DIA-Fund, a hybrid microphilanthropy platform that connected members of the Diaspora in the U.S. with vetted community-based organizations in their home country. She began her career at the Department of Commerce as the East Africa desk officer and served as the acting senior commercial officer with the African Development Bank. Ms. Petersen is also a noted speaker on topics related to international development, organizational development, and local impact, as well as diversity and international affairs.
Ms. Macani Toungara has fourteen plus years of international economic development and management consulting experience in the private and nonprofit sectors. She recently joined the U.S. Agency for International Development as a senior advisor in the Bureau for Africa and in that role serves as the senior technical expert in developing strategies for major agency programs of national scope and impact. Previously, she was the manager of international programs, Africa, for the Obama Foundation, where she managed programming across the African continent. The flagship program, Leaders Africa, inspires, empowers, and connects two hundred emerging African leaders through a yearlong program of capacity building. And prior to that, Ms. Toungara was the senior director for program development at TechnoServe, an international economic development nonprofit. Before joining, she was a consultant with the Boston Consulting Group where she worked on projects in consumer goods and financial services.
Thank you all for joining today. To start, I was very inspired learning about your extensive backgrounds as we were preparing for the session today. Each of you has your own unique experiences that have shaped who you are today and led to your current role. I know I just briefly introduced you, but your backgrounds are so rich in experiences. Can you share with the audience a little more detail on the path that carried you here? And since the session is on the transition between the public and private sector, if you could also focus on that? What was the catalyst that led you to some of these transitions? What was your role prior to the transitions and why did you decide to move at that point in your career? And, if you'd like to touch on some factors you were considering as you made that decision. Perhaps I could start with Dominique.
CARTER: Sure, thanks, Catherine. Hi, everyone. So as Catherine mentioned, from my bio, I am a biomedical scientist by training. And I would say in my last year of graduate school I recognized that I had developed the skillset just because of who I am as a person, as well as some of my main skills that would take me outside of the lab eventually. And I didn't know at the time when that would be. But I became more interested in policy as it related to science, education in particular, as well as access to specific demographics, which have been overwhelmingly underrepresented in STEM fields. So immediately following my completion of my PhD program, I actually went into industry. I worked for a molecular diagnostics startup called Exact Sciences, based out of Madison, Wisconsin. And that move was strategic. I specifically planned to leverage that opportunity to make me competitive for the AAAS Science and Technology Policy fellowship. At the time, I had very little experience in the policy world. And that was kind of my introduction to science policy, specifically health policy. So fast-forward to the AAAS Science and Technology Policy fellowship. That was the transition from industry to the public sector of government. And it was there where I was introduced to science diplomacy, specifically, international relations in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. How do you go about developing partnerships with countries based on synergistic science priorities? How do you go about even identifying what science priorities are in some countries? And what does that look like on the federal level? So those are some skills that I learned during that time. And that has transitioned and helped me in my current position, where one of the aspects of my portfolio is science and research security. So as science becomes increasingly International and interdependent, how can we protect the U.S. scientific enterprise, while also continuing to collaborate abroad as we start to face more global challenges? And I'm happy to answer more questions about that journey as they come up. Thank you.
PETERSEN: I don't know how to go after that. I would just like to thank CFR and all of my colleagues on the panel for the invitation today. And, as Dr. Carter mentioned, I think a couple of things that sort of stood out in her journey. I started at the Department of Commerce and then flipped to the private sector. But I think what she mentioned what I would add on to that is this, this idea of being very strategic, and looking and seeing where you want to go and setting yourself up in those positions that you're choosing to make sure that you can continue along that pathway, and seeing every position as a stepping stone along that pathway. And I think that kind of explains my story, where I started off at the Department of Commerce, right out of undergraduate school and happened to fall into the East Africa portfolio for market access and compliance. So was in a policy role. And having not had any other experience, other than the U.S. government, I actually wanted to get more technical skills. And so, having that policy experience gave me an idea of the macro. And then I decided in transitioning to the private sector, I went to a consulting firm after the Department of Commerce. I wanted to get very specific in terms of the skill sets that I needed to make sure that I understood the industry that I was actually doing policies for at the Department of Commerce. So I did it a little bit of the reverse. But I was very strategic and what I wanted to go into, and I've always in my career looked at where I can attach myself to revenue generation, just because that tends to be where I excel, so most of my other positions after that first transition to the private sector have been related to revenue in different ways. So institutional foundations, U.S. government, also individuals, etc. I'll stop there and can answer any other questions as well. Okay.
TOUNGARA: Building on sort of what's been said about being strategic, I completely agree that you really have to think about your career in terms of not only what institutions you aspire to be a part of, but what skill sets you need to build to be able to get there and be in a position to be able to run things and to be able to do what you want to do, whether that's in an institution, or whether that's working for yourself and building your own business along the way. I started my career in the private sector working as a management consultant. And that was an excellent foundational career training for me because it gave me training on how to manage clients, how to deliver presentations, how to do analysis, how to present analysis. It really gave me a set of skills and a broad sort of base from which I could build a career further on. Now, when I got an undergrad, I wasn't quite that strategic about it, taking the job. I was at a point where I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted a career in international affairs. I knew at that time that I wanted to be able to straddle the private and public sectors. I studied economics. So I had a bunch of these data points. And so I took the job that basically gave me the widest number of options as a starting point.
I was like, let me get experience in multiple sectors, which consulting lets you do, and I was like, if there's one I don't like after maybe I spend max six months doing it, I can move to a different sector. And that proved to be very much true. But I left management consulting, because ultimately, in looking at the folks who were at the top of the field, career-wise, I saw that I didn't want to be like them. It's a very unique lifestyle. It's very intensive. It's not being a lawyer, whereas you become a more senior lawyer, you get more relaxed. Senior folks in management consulting still have incredibly grueling lives, throughout their career. And, because in client services, your clients are always your priority. Moreover, I was looking for more mission-focused work and work that I could really believe in. And so that's why I switched to development and did that shift from the private to the nonprofit sector and joined TechnoServe, which is an organization that was very aligned with my mission orientation at the time, which was how to figure out how to do good by doing business, especially coming from a business profession. I stayed in that base for a long time before moving into the Obama Foundation and sort of more than foundation space, which was a strategic move on my part because I wanted to, number one, run my own program. I've done a lot of fundraising, institutional fundraising for TechnoServe, and their business development team, and was designing economic development programs.
I decided I wanted to run one myself, which is what I was doing when I received the opportunity to join the Biden-Harris administration as a political appointee last fall. The decision to move into the private-public sector is one that I've been wanting to do for a while. I've been trying to position myself to do it. I'd worked on the campaign that was very strategic in terms of trying to position myself for an opportunity to join the administration and was lucky enough to be chosen early to join. But it wasn't by happenstance. I've worked at it. I've worked since previous elections. I had invested. And this was the time when this opportunity became available to me. I'm happy to talk about any of those transitions in the course of this discussion, but I think that the name of the game is planning, and really looking ahead a few years to think about what you need to put in your life now in order for those opportunities to really come through over time because it doesn't necessarily happen when you want it to. Thank you.
ENG: Great, thank you so much. Now, transition can be challenging due to different working environments between, let's say, commercially driven organizations and public sector institutions that candidates often need to alter their mindset in terms of embracing a new workplace culture or management culture when making a successful move. Can you speak a bit about your own experiences in that regard? Post transition, acclimating, surprises, or some frictions you experienced, and what resources you then turned to? Ms. Toungara, would you like to start first?
TOUNGARA: I would say the biggest surprise is coming into the federal government. The bureaucracy is real. And having spent my entire career in the business and nonprofit sector for the most part, it's been a whole new world to be part of the federal government. I would say that, particularly in the private sector, they're just your rules, in terms of how you can get things done. If you have an idea, you can run with it. If you have a team that is supportive of what you're trying to do, and there's just a lot more flexibility to bend and flow, and brainstorm, and all these things. When you're in the federal government, for a reason, I think for very good reasons, there are just a lot of rules, and there's a lot of paperwork. And these are things that protect the individual and protect the institution. And so, it’s not something to be taken lightly. But it's definitely been an exercise in, I've had to very much take a learning approach to joining and asking people, okay, what do I need to do? How do I go about this? What is the process? What is the procedure, and really, be humble, in terms of learning, and adapting to how things are done, and every agency is unique.
I'm at USAID, so I'm learning how USAID operates. But every agency has its processes. And it's cultures as well. Some cultures are very formal in terms of chain of command. You would never go outside the chain of command to do certain things. You have to go through your supervisor who then goes through their supervisor, etc. Other cultures are a little more collaborative. I would say USAID is a little more collaborative, in that respect, in terms of, conversations you can have without necessarily having to follow very rigid protocol, in terms of informal dialogues and such. So I mean, those are all the kinds of things you have to be aware of when you come into an institution, is really get a sense of, particularly from your peers, I think they're the best advisors for you people who've been in the organization a long time and can give you a sense of what the culture is, how formal or rigid is it? What are the procedures to be able to get things done? Where do other people get stuck in the system so that you don't have to hit up against those walls as you're trying to do your work and work collaboratively with your colleagues and be seen as a team player. And so those are all factors that I think should be considered in advance of actually doing a job transition. Because depending on what's happening in the organization, whether public or private, those may be things that may not be a good fit with your working style, and how you get things done and could be a source of tremendous frustration. But where you've done your homework and your research, you've talked to peers, you've talked to senior management, and have a sense of the operating environment in the culture. I think, it's a good way to then get prepared for how to be able to engage effectively.
PETERSEN: It’s so funny. I was smiling as Macani was talking about the U.S. government because, just as a quick story. When I left the Department of Commerce, I realized that all of my invitations to embassy events, and to basically, no one knew who I was after that. I was dead to everyone. And then I realized I was like, oh, that's because when I was an official, people saw me as the U.S. government, right. And so you're writing an email, or you're doing a communication, you are representing basically, the American people. And so people, see that as like, okay, you're the desk officer for Tanzania, what you're saying is coming down from, the Secretary of Commerce, basically. And I didn't really realize the gravity of that until I left Commerce. And then I was like, oh, wow, no one listens to what I say anymore. That's funny because I guess, it just makes it so real. It's just funny in listening to her say that that's part of the reason why it's so important that you follow the protocols that are in place because, really, people do see you as the representative.
So in terms of transition, I totally agree with Macani in that you have to see where you fit in. Because I think that any, you know anything is possible. You just have to figure out how to navigate and how to get along. And how to get your check at the end of the day. So I think you can figure it out if you want to figure it out. But it is as you kind of continue to progress along your career. The question is, do I want to be doing this, right? Because I think that you spend a lot of your time, as Macani was mentioning. I was in the consulting space for a while. And basically, there was no period of time that I wouldn't respond. During the weekend, I would quickly send out emails, and I just think, what kind of lifestyle do you want to have? And, what matters to you? And also, how do you want to spend the majority of your time at certain levels? I think that that becomes the conversation and that becomes less about shifting your personality and your work style to navigate. Because we can all do that. It's more, do you want to do that? And I think that for me, that has really led a lot of my transitions in deciding, like, okay, I can raise money. I can always find something because I can raise money. But do I want to go this way? Do I want to go this way? What kind of work-life balance do I want to have? Am I really attached to this mission? Does this really speak to me? Those types of things are what I think, as you continue to move on, you start to put more weight into, as you've had your experiences, and I think that that's what kind of makes those transitions, makes you want to go for those different positions as you go along.
CARTER: I will third everything that has been said by Rashida and Macani. Following a transition, you want to be in the mind space of learning as much as you can. And, when I say learning, I mean, learning the needs that are specific to the office that you're serving in, but also learning the organization and how they operate. And one of the things that I found that was most useful for me was relationship building. At the time, when you're transitioning, you kind of have a little bit of time on your hands, not necessarily, you have a lot of free time. But I feel like you're given more room and flexibility in the beginning. Because folks understand that you're learning and adapting to a new environment. Be strategic and use that time to your benefit. And one way in which you can do that is by building relationships. Building relationships, inside and outside of your office. You never know who can be of use to you. And maybe you can be of service to someone else later down the line. You need to get something done, and you need to get information quickly. You never know who may have that information, or who may have access to somebody that has that information. And it's those types of things that can seem very small in the beginning. But once you've hit the ground running with your work, those are things that can be vital in opening new doors and opportunities for you. But also, showing your use, and value to your office and organization early on.
ENG: Thanks so much. I'd like to pivot a bit because this conference at its core is about diversity and international affairs. Talk about how diversity in the workplace has changed. Studies do say that the representation of diverse communities in the overall workforce has been slowly increasing, especially among women and senior management. At the same time, though, we're currently dealing with disturbing racial justice issues domestically. And in the international affairs workplace, there's been a lot of discussion about the lack of diversity in places like for instance, the State Department, and in the private sector, at least in certain studies. Where while there might be more diversity at the mid-level stage, the higher up the ladder you go, the more thinned out it can become. So how has diversity in the workplace changed since you entered the workforce? What has improved what hasn't? What has perhaps made it worse or better, and how does that affect the way that you operate at work? Ms. Petersen, would you like to start this time?
PETERSEN: So I can just speak to, I guess, maybe the fundraising industry. Unfortunately, there really hasn't been a lot of diversity in terms of people of color, particularly in many of the international development organizations at the senior levels and has actually gone down. I think about when I actually first moved from Commerce. And then I was at the Corporate Council on Africa, and then I moved again. But when I went into USAID contracting, there were a number of powerhouses at FHI 360, which was AED before. There were people that were known that were very senior, people of color, that would actually help support younger staff people, I could think of a few off the top of my head. And that has actually thinned out quite a bit. And so I think that, I mean, I have so many thoughts on this, but I'll try and make sure that I keep it somewhat PG. So I think that the challenge is that people are getting frustrated, and they are leaving.
And I've seen this on both the public sector side, a number of my colleagues who I started out at the Department of Commerce with who were exceptional attorneys, just brilliant, have are no longer there. They have a very, there's an issue with retention, there's an issue with being able to, for people to see the pathway and continue to grow and develop and people are getting tired. I think that battling your organization to try and prove. I mean, how many studies do we have to have that say that diverse workforces actually make decisions better? Increased revenue? There are so many things like when you're talking about different industries from Silicon Valley all the way to the dairy industry in Arkansas. I'm not sure what the answer is. But I think that we just got to continue to talk about the issues and continue to almost force the issue when we can. In my position, now I continuously raise, raise the opportunity to make sure that in our contracting, we have a procurement policy. I'm constantly pushing things back if I don't see diverse candidates if I don't see diversity and contracting. I'm like, what's going on with that? So, I think it's a continuous struggle. I wouldn't say that, at least in my field, that it has gotten better because I actually see the numbers, in particularly at the senior levels, dwindling, on the international development side, on the contracting and the nonprofit side.
TOUNGARA: So I agree with Rashida that at the senior levels, the numbers aren't good. And even where you have organizations that have a decent number of junior staff, they're not making it to the top. In the nonprofit sector, I think there's particularly a structural problem in which there's very little budget for middle management. And so people, oftentimes, a lot of organizations just don't have upward mobility. And so even folks who are committed to an organization, very mission-oriented, come in doing good work. By the time they've been in there for years and they get around to asking, oh, by the way, when can I get promoted, and the message is like, you can't get promoted, they’re shot, and then have to leave and go to another organization in order to get a promotion. So I think particularly in the nonprofit sector, it's a challenging space in which to have a career that is upwardly mobile, towards senior management. And where you can just continuously keep making those steps up. There's a lot of zigging and zagging that it takes. And I think for people of color in particular, because upper management is white, the boards are mostly white, with some sprinkling of color. In between, it's been also very difficult to model your career off of those very few people that you see, and have people who can say, this is how you do it, because the pathways have been so eclectic in terms of how any one person stuck with it long enough to get to the top and stay at the top.
And so I would say for those folks who are in the nonprofit space and are trying to figure it out, my advice is very much to, number one, if you're applying for a job, ask about what their promotion policies are. I know of organizations that literally have a policy that they just will not promote you. They have the number of staff that they want. And when you get in you will do the job you're assigned. And maybe you'll get an annual, a little bonus cost of living, but you will not be promoted. You will not be able to move up in terms of shifting your scope of work. And I think it's a shock when people realize that. But part of doing your homework in advance, before you join the organization, is knowing what you're getting yourself into. And that job can still be very much worth it. But at least you know the terms under which you are doing that role. And you understand once you get into that role that you are now negotiating for your next job outside of that organization and networking accordingly. You can impress your team and the people around you with the great work that you do. But that's not the thing that's going to get you that next job. The thing that's going to get you the next job is communicating those accomplishments and the great work that you're doing to other folks in your sector so that when you're ready to go, and you feel that you've hit that plateau, in terms of learning what you need to learn, you're executing at a really high level, you're ready for your next challenge. There are people you've been talking to you the whole time, who've been able to see your professional development and hear about your professional development and can say, hey, I have a job here, or I know the job there that would be perfect for you based on what you said you wanted. And the growth and development that you've demonstrated while at the seven jobs that gave you what you needed at that particular point in your career. So that's my sort of career advice and career advice day.
But to speak to larger diversity issues? Well, conversations are better. I've had conversations about racial issues in the past year that I never thought I would have in the workplace. Talking about race in the workplace is a good way to get labeled as someone who's problematic back in the day, not to date myself. But that's how it's been up until recently. And it's great, but things seem to have changed. And I hope that that change persists. I think we're all in our own ways, trying to be agents of change and our different ways in terms of trying to figure out how we incorporate greater diversity into things that we can touch, and we're doing our best. But it's still, I think, a very fraught trajectory that we're on. And I'm hoping the progress that's been made with the protests and everything that has happened will continue. But I'm not particularly optimistic. And it's an ongoing, probably lifetime process, frankly.
ENG: Dr. Carter, your thoughts?
CARTER: Sure. I would say, diversity in STEM fields, in particular, was a major impetus and driving me into policy, or at least burgeoning my interest in policy. So whether or not you're in a STEM field, I think everyone may have heard or known that there's a large diversity problem at every level and that women and people of color at very young ages kind of dropped out of that STEM pipeline very early. And many of us who go on to obtain terminal degrees, we are creating our own blueprint. I myself am a first-generation college student. I had no idea at the time that this is the type of career that I would end up in. And I very much enjoy it. But I wouldn't say that I've necessarily had anybody that I can see, that looks like me, going to where I see myself going, right. So this goes back to the simple phrase that representation matters, and you can't be what you can't see. So just like many of us, I am very passionate and heavily involved in the community as it relates to recruitment and retention of underrepresented minorities, particularly in STEM fields. I just so happened to transition into international relations as it relates to science. But that opened up so many doors for me that I didn't even know in terms of science, career trajectories. And as I continue to work in this area, more and more, I do see more diversity.
And I am, I would say, very proud and encouraged to be serving in the office where the director of my Office of the Chief Scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture is a Black woman. And the acting chief scientist, who also serves as the administration minister or the Agricultural Research Service, is also a Black woman. So being fortunate enough to work in a position where I see women of color and serving in these positions is inspiring to me. And I know that that is not an experience shared by many people of color in different organizations. I can go on and on about this also, but I'll just I'll stop there.
ENG: Well, let's continue the conversation but get the audience members involved. At this time, I would like to invite participants to join our conversation with their questions. A reminder that this meeting is on the record. The operator will also remind you how to join the question queue. And if you could speak your full name and affiliation, please.
Q: Good afternoon and thank you all so much for being here. And for your incredible insight. My name is Melina Dunham. I'm a professional currently looking for new opportunities. My background is in the nonprofit and UN space, and I'm either looking to stay in that space or transition to the private sector. And my question to all of you is, for those of us who could be considered generalists, but who have a commitment to social impact work, what advice do you have as we are looking to either transition spaces or seek new opportunities? Thank you.
PETERSEN: I can take that. I'm the queen of generalists. So, I would say, to print out your CV, and to take a look at like. What experiences that you've had and map out where you want to go in the private sector. Because I think sometimes where there are challenges with making transitions is actually just communicating what you did that then actually has the link to the industry that you're trying to go to. And I think that role is on you and less about that hiring manager to be looking through your CV and thinking, oh, well wait, they did this and like, oh, and here, they did this, and this and this and this. And so I think you have to make that story for people. And it's all in how you communicate what you did that can translate into. Let's say you want to go to agriculture like I did. When I left doing USAID contracting, I decided that I was really interested in, I wanted to go deeper into AG. And I took my CV and was like, okay, how can I translate what I did into the agriculture industry? Like, how does this match up? What is going to be of interest to them? What skills can I bring to the table that are going to progress what they're trying to do? And I think that we have to make that link because sometimes, as generalists, we speak in general terms, but there's so much there. And then you just never actually get to specifics. And so then, people kind of throw you out. Because it's not like a, you don't fit into a box, you could do anything, but you want to do this, but you're really not communicating exactly how you get there for people. So that would be my recommendation.
TOUNGARA: I had this same challenge coming out of management consulting and trying to go into development. And, as a consultant, I was a generalist. I had done a lot of work in a lot of different sectors. And I had a strong set of skills to bring to the table. But I knew nothing about agriculture, for example, and I remember distinctly a conversation. I think it was with someone at Commodity X. I was interviewing for something and they're like, are you a specialist in pineapples? We need a pineapple specialist. And I was like, oh, and then they were like, you have a law degree? Do you want to be a junior contractor? And I was like, no. I was a mid-career professional by then and I was being offered, because I had a lot of junior contractor jobs in these nonprofits, because I didn't have that specialization either in USA procurement or in a specific agricultural field where I could check the box for a specific position for a specific project that they need. So I just say that to say that I've hit that wall and it's very painful. And I ended up at TechnoServe, in part because they actually valued my generalist skillset. They like management consultants, culturally, and organizationally. They appreciated my private sector background because it was also aligned with their mission in terms of business solutions to poverty, which was their tagline at the time. So in making that sort of generalist transition, and mapping it to the type of social impact, you want to have to reshoot this point, you have to tell the story, right in terms of how your skillsets fit into this new sector, and then why you don't want to be there, right. Because if you don't have a good idea, in terms of the social impact you want to have, you won't be able to convince others of it either. So yes, it's nice to want to have social impact. Pretty much. Most jobs in the world can have a social impact somewhere, depending on your interpretation. But you have to be able to narrow that zone significantly. And that's by talking to people who have interesting careers and getting straight in your own mind, the sector and then, within that, then you do the sort of skills matching that gets you in the door, and then might get you to the job you really want. It might take a couple of steps in and won't always be direct. But if you're clear on the nature of the social impact that can help to make this a less fraught process for you.
CARTER: Hi, I just wanted to, I feel like everything that I would contribute has been said already. But I did want to recommend this book that I'm currently reading called Range. And it's by David Epstein. And it talks about how generalists kind of can thrive or excel or something like that in a specialized world. And the reason why that book is so key and so important is because, on average, I'm a millennial, right, and on average, we are expected, based on a report recently released by McKinsey and Company, to switch jobs every two to three years. Right? Those jobs may not be in the same sector or field. So how do we adapt? I feel books like that can really help you in terms of framing your career trajectory and your story. And really kind of help you see how everything you've done up to this point is a lie. I wasn't trained in agriculture. And somehow, I'm here. I'm trained as a microbiologist, and I'm not even working in microbiology, but my skillsets, nevertheless, are very essential to the work that I do here. So I just wanted to first recommend that book and just say that Melina that you are, where many of us are or will be. So I think we all need to be comfortable with becoming generalists over the course of our career. That's just what it is. We can no longer afford, I feel, to be very focused and centralizing in something that we do. Our challenges are multifaceted. So our skill sets need to be also.
TOUNGARA: I think it's hilarious that all three of us have done AG. We do not start in AG. So just putting that out there.
CARTER: Food security is an issue and will be an issue for some time to come. So I feel like I and everybody may have crossed paths with AG in their lifetime. That's just what I think now.
STAFF: We'll take the next question from Koran Howard. And a reminder, we welcome all participants to turn your video on should you wish.
Q: Well, my name is Koran. Nice to be with you today. My question really goes to Dr. Carter's response to the other question, I guess. I'm a first-generation college student. I'm from Miami Dade College. And about an hour ago, I didn't really know your jobs existed. So it really goes to how do I find the jobs that are out there that I don't know that are out there?
CARTER: That is a great question. And this goes back to a larger systemic and structural issue that is a culprit of racism, which is access. Access to information, access to resources. Being first-generation and having to create your own blueprint comes with its own set of challenges. One of which you just mentioned in your question, and something that I've found to be very helpful to me, is starting by creating a mini network of your own right. So, how do you do that? How do you go about that? When I was an undergrad, one of the ways that I did that was by being very active as a part of professional societies that are related to your interests and or related to your training. And you want to go ahead and join those now before you graduate or still have access to your student email because those prices for those memberships go up. After that, I just want to drop that gem right there. And then specifically within those professional organizations, you can find they usually have themed focus groups in different areas. So for example, I was a chemistry major and undergrad. I joined the American Chemical Society. It wasn't until later that I learned of NOBCChE, the National Organization for Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers, I was already on my way out. And that was because I went to a predominantly white institution, right. But each of those organizations have specific theme groups that you can join based on your interest of business, clinical chemistry, for example, policy, education, etc. So I will start there, I would also recommend that you speak to some of your professors, former professors about some of your aspirations. While you're building your network, it's really kind of critical that you leverage or work with people who can provide you access to relevant people in their networks. I feel like that is a good way to start. But the reason why earlier on I said relationships are currency is for this very reason. You don't know what you don't know. But as you continue to engage and talk to more people in the field that you're interested in going to, that's where that information gap can begin to close. And I'll just stop there. I'm happy to chat more offline about that. Thanks so much for your question.
STAFF: We'll take the next question from Jamila White.
Q: Hi everyone. Thank you so much for this wonderful panel today. It’s such a pleasure to see so many wonderful faces of people I admire. One of the questions I do have for you all today is as we see development, in particular, becoming more local, there's a bigger call for decolonizing development, empowering, more choices, more funding, more decision-making at the country level, and looking at the relationship we have with countries. As young people are coming out of college and entering in this career, what advice would you give them as we are having this reckoning because, at the same time, we're looking at how our roles as development practitioners need to change? Instead of looking at us as experts, which most of us are not, I think that expert term means more academia less of an expert because we know there's so much lived experience where we have that expertise. I’d just be interested in what guidance and advice would you have to young people as the industry is making the shift and career and they're trying to start their industries. I've had a lot of young people ask me, I can't get a job overseas, I can't get a job overseas. And I say, well, I'm not hiring you because I'm hiring a local. So look, there are so many more roles, and so many more opportunities, whether it's FDA, Foreign Service, working for the government, where you can have these opportunities, because there is a big push to really change development and have those resources at the national level to be making decisions. So what's the role? What do you see as a role going forward in the next few years for folks on this side working to support that work?
TOUNGARA: All right, I will bite. Hey, Jamila. And I can't come on camera because I just finished working out. It's a good question. Right. So as the capacity, the global capacity to determine one's national outcomes grows, across countries around the world, how do countries that used to provide expert guidance adjust to that new reality? And I think that the truth is that people all have this as a shared experience, even as we see that their development needs abroad, their development needs at home. Right now, I'm working a lot in the digital sector, and thinking about the digital economy on the African continent. And, as I'm doing my research and trying to understand what the needs are and such, I'm also real. What was obvious is that we haven't solved access to the internet. In our rural economy, it's a challenge that has not been solved. Industry and the private sector and government do not have good solutions for rural access. Even in our more populated urban areas, or even smaller towns, access is still a challenge. And so as we talk about access on the African continent, there are things that have not been solved. But that doesn't mean that we can't be in conversation with colleagues on the other side of the continent to together identify solutions that can ultimately be shared for their rural populations and our rural populations. And so, my feeling on this is that it's not about coming at it as the expert. But it's about coming to these issues with the expertise that you have, and the expertise that can be mutually shared in order to come up with solutions and pilots and experimentation that can happen both in developing and developed economies so that those who do not have access and do not have opportunities can benefit from the learning that is happening and the potential for that learning in both developed and developing economies. So I think it's really a question of attitude. And I think that, where this stuff works best, is in international spaces where you have experts from all kinds of areas who are coming together and bringing the best thinking from all of their continents and regions, to develop standards, international standards that can meet the needs of a wide variety of countries and those kinds of things. And where, just because you happen to be born in one country, doesn't mean you have necessarily the best ideas. But you're bringing that expertise to a table that is crowded with folks who also are bringing theirs, and there has to be some humility in that process. So I think it's a mind shift. But encourage those who are interested in development. Figure out, yes, be a generalist. But if you have an area of expertise, if you're a scientist or something like that, I mean, that's a real opening for communicating with colleagues overseas and finding those spaces for conversation and dialogue that can lead to really fascinating collaborations and really interesting experiences.
PETERSEN: Can I add in on this? Jamila, I think it's also a really, really awesome question. Because you need that entry point to get into that entry-level job to be able then to again, have that pathway to continue to get program level experience, to get monitoring and evaluation experience, to get program design experience, which, you need to be able to maybe be on a capture team or so you have to have these experiences. You have to have the access in order to be even competitive in the development space. But I've been thinking about this recently, and I've been thinking, if I were coming out right now, with my degree, so I went to the University of Maryland and my degrees are in international business and Spanish. I would probably double down on languages. And I would also double down on the startup space. So I think the private sector has a little bit more opportunity, particularly for folks that may not necessarily want to take two years out to do Peace Corps. Maybe they weren't able to study abroad. I know I wasn't able to study abroad. I had two jobs when I was in undergrad. So I think looking at it differently, and maybe backing into the development space, based on again, doubling down on languages and looking at, could you join a really interesting team that is doing a startup in Kenya, but needs a person that has a particular skill set x, y, and z? Or could you join an organization that then you could find a group. Your tribe or a group of folks that are looking to start up a nonprofit and go that way and then take that experience and back into the development space and say like, hey, look, I did, I have two languages, three languages. And I did this startup project here and these different places because I think the private sector is always going to go with the individuals that can, I think they look at things more globally and I think that there may be more opportunity in going that way rather than going the traditional DC, you get a Peace Corps, you go for two years, shout out to Peace Corps, I love Peace Corps, but I'm just saying if you don't go that way, you know if you don't have the ability to do those things, I think you have got to get creative with how you back into a development position.
TOUNGARA: And I would just say in response to Rashida’s point, Rashida’s right. And all these things are hard. If you don't have the networks to get into them. And if you have not started your career in a way that gives you access to your international spaces, the longer you wait, the more difficult it actually is to make that transition from domestic to international. So I just want to make that acknowledgment, that for folks who do not have the networks and the relationships, even finding a friend who's doing a startup in Kenya can be impossible. Because you don't know anybody who's starting startups in Kenya. And this is where, and then that's the structural barrier. And that's where privilege comes in. And economic opportunity and racism and all the things that we've talked about. The societal problems are very much knotted up. And in a way that prevents first-gen students and minorities and such from having that friend who’s doing a startup in Kenya and being like, hey, join my team, I can't pay you much, but I'll give you some stock. I can't eat stock, or, I have to help pay my mama's whatever, maybe I can't afford to do that right now and take the risk on a startup. So startups can have money, they have opportunity, maybe, but sometimes they don't, and the people who go into that have a financial cushion, so they can afford to join a startup and wait for the stock options to vest later. And so there's privilege that comes with being able to take those kinds of financial risks, even in the private sector. And I just want to acknowledge that, for the folks in the room, because none of this stuff is easy. And that's where spaces like conferences like this are so important because they allow you to meet the people who do have those relationships even if you don't. And by cultivating relationships and communities like this one, it's that entry point that you may not have had and other networks that you belong to, that can help you to even know that these opportunities are out there and be able to get your foot in the door. So it's a hard process, it's a hard thing. I don't want to undercount it. And I just want to build off of Rashida’s statement to make that acknowledgment.
CARTER: Really quickly, if I can, I just want to plug two things that I found to be of use to me and to some friends of mine, to help gain experiences in the international space. So one, there is a website called ProFellow.com. I don't want you to get that wrong idea. Like I'm just one of these fellowshiping people that just plan to fellowship my whole career. I will tell you that fellowships provide a lot of opportunities at every career stage. And this website, in particular, called ProFellow.com. They even have what they call the International Fellows Network that you can join. But they have and they list all of the fellowships, you can set up a free profile. Say I'm interested in international affairs, business development, venture capital, whatever the case, and they will curate lists, with fellowships in this area at every career stage. Again, and they will send you those lists, hey, this deadline is coming up two weeks or a month from now maybe you'll be interested in this. You can check it out. They update it daily. And then another one I want to plug for this demographic group, in particular, is something I don't even know how I found out about this, but it was during my AAAS Fellowship, called Young Professionals in Foreign Policy. WPFP. And they have chapters in random places, like London chapter, Paris chapter, a New York chapter, a DC chapter. You don't necessarily have to be in those areas to join. But they also pose jobs and fellowship opportunities. They provide opportunities to network within that organization. You can gain experience even serving in volunteer capacity for that organization. And so those were just two things off the top of my head that I know can provide opportunities in the international space. Oh, yes. And I see people dropping fellowships in the chat. Awesome. Let’s inform each other. Okay. This is what this is about.
ENG: Thanks so much. And we do have a question in the chat from Sandra Rivera. When did you get to the point where you felt I have to leave in a job? Whoever would like to take that first.
CARTER: I would like to just start and what I'm going to say is going to be very short. But I knew that I had to leave academia. As I was exiting academia with my degree, and the reason why I knew that is because I know that the environment in which I got my degree was so strenuous on me, not only because of the rigor of my program, but almost more because of the environment in which I had to work in to get that. It was very repressive for me and not encouraging and just not the best experience. And so I knew in my mind, my skills won't be best utilized if I continue down this path. And so when I left, it was to the dismay of my PhD advisor, and my thesis committee. They were very encouraging and all, but guess who gets emails from them almost weekly now? Me. So it was just like, when you know, you know. And sometimes it's hard to be your own advocate when you are early on in your career, or you're just starting, but I just want to say that, to encourage you all, if you have a gut feeling, or no, I need to go follow that feeling. Okay. And, I also want to say that, early in your career, you can feel, not necessarily that you have to go, but maybe that I have reached the capacity in which I can grow and learn in this position. It's time for me to move on. Right? So those are two different types of impetus in which I've experienced personally, which I knew it was time for me to go. So yeah, just want to say that. And when I kind of start having that inkling, that's the time to start reaching out to your network, starting to see what's available. Hey, do you have any opportunities going on at the organization I'm interested in? Start setting up informational interviews, these things that you guys have heard from many people, I'm sure by now. So I just wanted to say that. Thanks.
TOUNGARA: Yeah, cosign on the gut check. I mean, the other sign for me too was when I looked at the most elite members of my profession and was like, I don't want to be like you. That's generally a sign that you're not in it for the long term to do the sacrifices it takes to get to the peak of that profession. And so I think that's also an important sign. But I would say, don't actually wait until you're disgusted to begin to look. Yes, follow that gut feeling. But I think looking for career opportunities should be a continuous process. You can give yourself a break when you first enter a job, but you have to keep that eye on, what’s my strategy, and what's my next step and be continuously talking to people about what those next steps can look like? Because that's how you learn about things and opportunities that you may not have even known existed at whatever stage of your career that you're in. I see in the chat that there's a question about seasoned professionals making this transition.
I've done it, like, twice now. I did it from the private sector to development as a career person, and then from development to leadership, and now leadership to government. And it's tough, and actually making the transition from TechnoServe to the Obama Foundation took me about two years because I didn't want to do fundraising anymore. I had reached a point where I was not learning anything new. And that's another sign you feel like you're at the point where there's really nothing more for you to learn in that position, and you're kind of on autopilot. And you can do everything. You don't have to work as hard to get it all done. That's a sign it's probably time to move on. But it took me a long time to find a job that wasn't institutional fundraising, which was my area of expertise because everybody wants fundraisers. Everybody wants to give you a job. It's critical for a lot of organizations. And I didn't want to be pigeonholed for me and my career development as a fundraising professional. I was interested in policy and other things. And I felt that it was important given how long I've been in that role for me to specifically do something different so that I could open up a wider variety of opportunities professionally.
And it really came down to, I think, what Rashida said earlier, of looking at my CV and being able to tell a different story. Even with the sector expertise that I had that was deep in fundraising, that I had a set of skills that could potentially match other things, and then, very deliberately having conversations with folks outside of the fundraising field to try to figure out how to tell that story and what that narrative and next step could be. It was a process that evolved with time. It evolved with bidding on different types of jobs. I looked at opportunities in corporate social responsibility, especially coming out of the nonprofit sector. I definitely explored a lot of different sectors, practiced writing different cover letters to say, is this convincing, right? Can I tell this story, even if I'm coming from A and trying to go to B.? But I would say, if you're thinking about it, start early because the more exhausted you are in your day job, the more difficult it is to have the confidence and the energy that it takes to invest in the conversations and in the iterations to finally find that space that is the right fit for you.
PETERSEN: Agree with all of those things but just want to do a plug for the entrepreneurs. Don't be afraid to jump out there and make your own pathway. And even if you don't make it, that’s a story in itself. And that's one that you can always spin, like you’re looking at market fit, you’re trying to raise money, and trying to get clients or, or put out a product. And so, don't be afraid to, if you're transitioning, and you have a lot of skill sets, and you feel like you can, there's a gap in the market, just saying that there's always right now, there's a lot of money for, for entrepreneurs, so don't be afraid to do that either.
ENG: Now, I actually wanted to unpack leadership a little bit as well. The three of you are seasoned veterans in your fields. You've been in and are serving in leadership roles. But different leaders have different styles. And oftentimes one type of leader is promoted, maybe the person who's the loudest, maybe the person who exudes the most confidence, or so on. And there are studies that show, just focusing on gender for a moment, that women don't necessarily act on opportunities as much as men do. They often face a double-edged sword where if you're too quiet, you're not noticed. But if you speak up and you're confident, sometimes you're labeled or perceived too assertive, or aggressive, maybe. What's been your experience? Do you think people recognize the strengths that you and others bring as a diverse individual with unique experiences? And then, how can we seek to better understand each other and get people to see our strengths for leadership roles?
CARTER: I want to start because I feel like I probably am the most junior person on this panel. So, I wouldn’t necessarily say I'm a veteran in this. I'm five years out of school this year. And what I will say is, I'm being enabled to contribute early on. And being humble and nimble and willing to help. Even if you feel maybe it's below your skillset, or your skill level, like oh, I can do more than this, I don't have to do this little thing. I feel kind of like changing your mindset. And helping with projects early on can put you in a position that will enable you to showcase your skills. And when you do that, you show again, value to your office, value to your organization. And it's those times when you have people who sit in rooms that you're not yet a part of that can speak on the work on your behalf, right? And it's those types of opportunities that begin to open up doors for you. That's what I have found. And when, again, you are humble, and people can see that you're eager and willing to help. A lot of times, they will put you in a position. And you show that you can do good work and are efficient, they'll put you in a position where you can lead a team or lead a project. And then, when you have to, it's your turn to then, for example, present to leadership and speak on the work that you've done, how the value translates across the organization, or is cross functional across multiple departments. That is really your opportunity to shine and make yourself visible in terms of demonstrating that, yes, you are in a capacity and you are ready to leave and maybe have more responsibility. So that's just what I found thus far in my career, and I'll stop there.
TOUNGARA: I think Dominique's advice is great and very important. It is important to make a distinction between being gamed to do projects and a willingness to jump in and support. There's a fine line between that and doing. I wouldn't say I would say sort of filling in to do things that may not be adding to your professional development. I think it's important when you volunteer for all those projects that may be tied to your professional development. And so you might be that person that loves to organize the sports league or loves to go get coffee for everyone, and everyone thinks you're so friendly, and so nice and so wonderful. But that's not always the thing that you'll get credit for. I think it is important to do some of that stuff and show that you're willing to do some of the social stuff for your organization, but you have to really balance that against your day job, and special opportunities to actually help to develop your skills and help you prove yourself to upper management. If you're in an institution and can help, also advance you professionally, as well as socially. And those two things matter. You can be excellent, but if you don't have social capital, you will not advance.
And so I don't want to underplay some of the social things. But it's important to be aware that there are a lot of mediocre people who get promoted because people like them. And it's really annoying, especially if you're better at the job than they were. So it's important to also, I think, as you think about your leadership, and I think, for me, too, I still think about that, well, what’s the work, but what's also the social work? Who should I be talking to who needs to know that I exist so that I can get some runway for the next professional opportunity? Because there are people in decision-making roles who may not even know that I'm in my job right now. And I should be doing that proactive outreach to them. So I think that that's just as critical, especially as you're playing the long game and thinking about where you want to be. And if you want to be an executive director, or a boss running an organization, your skillset, and all of that is as important as your social capital, within the spaces that you're operating in, and you have to run both. This can be more difficult if you're an introvert than an extrovert because it might mean extra work, to do the networking and put yourself out there, send emails to people you don't know. And that can be very energy-consuming. But it's work that everyone needs to do, I think, especially in the DC area. It's considered part of the process. Other countries, other states have different cultures. So I just want to acknowledge that I'm very much speaking from a DC-centric culture. And that there are other cultures that are different, and you have to figure out which culture you're operating in. But that's the one that that I've been in and experienced. I think there's anything else. Rashida, you go. That's all I have to say.
PETERSEN: No, I think you've covered it really well, Macani. I knew of Macani even before we met because of her being kind of a leader, and also a very senior Black woman in the agriculture space when she was at TechnoServe. So I think that there's also how people perceive you and how you present yourself to your peers and colleagues around you. And so, I think that that's the one thing that I would add. I think that Macani, you've done a great job on that. I'm sure a lot of other people, I see a lot of my peeps in the in the crowd. I think it's also how people speak about you and how people view you outside of just your management structure, and do they view you as a leader in your field, and I think that that's important to that social capital piece. Thanks so much.
ENG: It looks like we're just about out of time. I think our speakers’ experiences and advice will be quite valuable to our young audience as they navigate their own professional environments. Thank you again to everyone who joined today's virtual meeting. Thanks to our panelists and thanks to CFR for hosting.