ZARATE: Welcome to the Council on Foreign Relations. Great group. What a—what a great crowd. This is the opening plenary of this important conference on leading organizational change for diversity and inclusion. My name is Juan Zarate. I’m the chairman and co-founder of the Financial Integrity Network. I’ll be presiding over the discussion today.
I’m honored to be up here today, in part because of CFR’s important role in shaping the international affairs environment and how we think about its development. I’m also honored to be here because of these three incredible people. You’ll see in their bios, each of them has enormous experience both in the public and the private sector, serving our country in various roles. And I’m humbled just to be up here with them. And so I’m really honored to be here.
What we want to do with this opening discussion is set the table for what is hopefully a very constructive evening and next day talking about the importance of diversity and inclusivity, why that matters in the context of international affairs. And, frankly, hearing from the three experts up here as to how they’ve both experienced it and shaped and effected diversity and inclusivity in their lives. I think for a lot of you who are not only veterans in this space, but those of you who are aspiring to be professionals in some field in international affairs, hearing from them as to what they expect, what they’ve seen, and what they anticipate in the environment will be very important.
So let’s start our discussion. And let me just quickly introduce our panelists, and then we can start. To my immediate right is Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall. Elizabeth and I met when she deputy secretary of energy in the prior administration. She’s now the distinguished professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Is also a senior fellow at the Belfer Center at Harvard. To her right is Dean and Ambassador Ruben Brigety. Former naval officer, sir, so I’m not quite sure how to address you. (Laughter.) I’ll just say sir, how’s that? Ruben is the dean of GW’s Elliott School of International Affairs. He’s the former U.S. representative to the African Union. And to the far right is Mr. Marc Allen. He’s a senior vice president at Boeing, the president of Embraer Partnership, has held incredibly important roles for Boeing in in the private sector, as well as public-private commissions and taskforces.
So, welcome, all of you.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Thank you.
BRIGETY: Thank you.
ZARATE: So let’s start with this question about what does diversity and inclusivity even mean to you in the context of your careers and international affairs? Because there are different lens through which to view diversity and inclusivity. Be very interested to hear how you think about these issues conceptually. Elizabeth?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: So, first of all, thank you. Thank you to the Council. I have to say, this room just rocks the world. I started out at the Council on the summer before my senior year of college as an intern. There was never a meeting at the Council that looked like this. And it is—(applause)—it’s transformational to see this group today, and how many young faces of so much diversity are present. The Council was the old white men’s club, literally. And I felt so privileged to even get a chance to be an intern. There was one female senior fellow at the Council. There was no one who looked like me. And the opportunity that I was given to work hard and earn my spurs and begin the path to a career in international affairs and public service was extraordinarily important.
And so I would say that what I’ve learned over the many years is how important it is for each of us begin on that journey, to look for allies who will help us. For me, it was all men. There were no female role models. I had to work through those who had the power to open the doors. And then to earn my place and open the doors for others. And so I would say it’s really about standing together in this endeavor to build on our strength as a nation to meet the challenges that we face, and to find a place for everybody who has the desire to contribute to do so meaningfully.
ZARATE: Ruben, how do you think about diversity and inclusivity, especially given your role now as a dean of a very important international affairs school? And how has that sort of impacted the way you’ve progressed in your career?
BRIGETY: Sure. Well, again, Juan, thanks very much. And I’m thrilled that the Council is hosting this.
Let me give three very short, specific answers to that question. The first, and most obvious, is that diversity means the inclusion of underrepresented minorities and women. The reason it means inclusion of underrepresented minorities and women is because they are underrepresented. The reason they have been underrepresented is not because of a lack of talent amongst the minority groups or amongst women. It is because of a series of structures that have systematically, at one point deliberately, excluded them. And then, once the doors were technically open, they simply did not have access to the same social capital, assuming the equivalent talent and capabilities. And that’s why—and you cannot reasonably assume that things will change if you keep doing the same things the same way.
Shameless plug, I wrote an article for ForeignAffairs.com—(laughter)—
ZARATE: That’s OK. You can do that here.
BRIGETY: Exactly. Two years ago now, called Diversity of the National Security Establishment. And the basic argument of the piece was: There is not—with the exception of the civilian side of USAID and the enlisted ranks of the military, with the exception of the Marine Corps—there is not a single agency in the foreign affairs establishment of the United State government where diversity in the middle and the top looks the same as diversity at an entry level—not one. And so, that leads you to one of two conclusions: either women and minorities are either objectively not as good as their white male counterparts, or there is something else at work. And so we need to systematically think about that. So that’s one.
As an academic, in addition to those things, it also very much means ideological diversity. So as dean of the largest schools of international affairs in the world, I take—in the United States—I take my responsibility of ensuring free debate of ideas extremely seriously. I have a point of view, but my point of view is not meant to define in any stretch the level and the debate that exists on campus. And so I work very, very hard, my team works very, very hard, to ensure that we have a full range of views represented not only in lectures, but also in terms of ideological perspectives of faculty and others.
Third thing I will say, I want to come back to this point of allyship that Elizabeth said, because it’s so extremely important. Let me give you a story—a true story. Most of my stories are true. (Laughter.) So I have two sons that now are about thirteen and eleven. And a couple years ago we went to Atlanta and we visited the National Museum for Civic and Human Rights. If you haven’t had a chance to go take a look at it, I strongly suggest you do so. It’s basically a masterful storytelling of the history of the civil rights movement. And one of the exhibits is an exhibit about Freedom Summer—you know, the bus rides, the Freedom Riders. So they have a mockup of an old sort of Trailways bus, and then they have a wall about as big as that wall back there full of nothing but mugshots of people that were arrested as Freedom Riders. About three-fourths of the pictures are black, about one-quarter were white.
And I told my sons: Take a look at this picture. See what you see? You see the white people? They didn’t have to be there. But they saw an injustice and they stood for it. And you must do the same thing, because there are going to be times when there will be people who will be excluded that may not be excluded on the same basis that you are included on. But you need to stand up, because other people stood up for you. And in positions of leadership, that’s how we ought to be thinking about advancing diversity in this space.
ZARATE: Thank you. We’re going to come back to a couple of those themes.
Marc, you’ve reached the heights of the corporate world, in one of the most iconic and important space defense, you know, companies and industry in the country. How have you thought about diversity, inclusivity from a personal standpoint, and then in the context of the ecosystem and environment in which you operate?
ALLEN: At a personal level, you know, one of—for me, one of the great moments of diversity and inclusion in my own life was when I had the chance to go and live in Beijing, China as the president of Boeing China. Because when I got there, you know—(laughs)—you have to understand, I was stepping into a job that every single person there who was a counterpart of mine—ministers, and the government, CEOs of other companies in aerospace—looked at me and said: What is this young, black, tall guy doing here? (Laughter.) Who has got no expertise in China? And, you know, one of the lessons I learned fast in that experience, which was a very different way to think about diversity than in the context of the United States—where my difference is that I have brown skin. There I was much—it was a bigger message of difference, actually, than even here, which was fascinating.
But one of the things I learned was it gave me the chance to tell the story. Why? And there’s nothing like a relationship. Of course, in China that’s so important. And so being able to build great relationships because it started right at the font of knowing and being able to hear my story, my background, and then me hearing theirs, and sharing, was just core. So one of the core messages around diversity and inclusion for me is it’s about, you know, how we share and how we listen. And the better we do that, the better we communicate. And that matters, because whether in international affairs or in the private sector, you know, what you have to understand about the myth of communication is that it has occurred.
The myth of communication is that it has occurred, because more often than you realize—especially in big institutions—communication is not happening. People are speaking, people are listening, but communication, real connectivity, is not happening. And that gets harder when you break past your own network of people who look like you, think like you, grew up like you, speak like you. And so if you want to excel in the world of international business or international affairs, being able to excel in that space requires breaking through that sharing-listening barrier, that most people in the world face, no matter where they’re from, or what they look like. The institutional structures that Ruben just spoke about are real. And all they do is make it harder.
So my perspective on this personally is that diversity and inclusion is a personal matter for me, is about going to places that might be uncomfortable, showing up boldly and excitedly, and then sharing and listening. Like, it’s a pretty simple construct. And then at the institutional level, from a company perspective, what I share across the company is there is talent everywhere. And so the real trick, if you care about having a diverse team, is actually just being better at looking for talent. Because if your team isn’t diverse, that means you just defaulted to the talent that you saw in front of you. So you’re not a good heat-seeking missile for talent. But if you want to be a good heat-seeking missile for talent, you’re going to go find it wherever it is. And it’s going to look different every time.
And so that’s a fundamental premise I have that’s very personal. There aren’t a lot of big institutional programs that can force it. It’s personal. It’s leadership, and it has to be forced down at every single level. And that doesn’t mean you can’t have the programs, they are necessary, they are just not sufficient. So never let yourself make the mistaking of thinking the programmatic is sufficient. It is personal.
ZARATE: That’s incredible. I could listen to all three of them all day. Something that you all said here that is important, because there are different lenses through which to view diversity and experiences of diversity and inclusivity, right? There’s gender, ethnicity, race, religion, there’s culture, there’s experience. I want to ask each of you how it is that the—sort of the diversity that we’re talking about here has been important in terms of decision-making and creativity in your professional lives? Because I think what’s often lost here, and there are studies that point this out, that diversity of backgrounds, and thought, and experience, and gender, and race actually leads to better decision-making. So I want to kind of tease that out, because I think it’s very important substantively as we think about the importance of both diversity and inclusivity.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Thanks, Juan. So I would say, first of all, the reason we do this is because it’s a right thing to do as a matter of principle. Before we talk about the reasons it may benefit our interests, just who we are as a nation is to be a nation that is inclusive, and that values every individual, and gives each individual a certain set of rights and responsibilities as a citizen. So I just start at that values level.
But then I also say, OK, some people don’t necessarily get motivated by principles and values. So I’m going to appeal to their self-interest. And what you find, and you referenced a study, there are lots of studies that show that diverse and inclusive workplaces are places that are more successful, more profitable, heat-seeking missiles for talent, reach decisions that are more sustainable. And you can look for what variable you want to measure for, the bottom line is we’re more successful as enterprises. And in this very competitive environment for talent, looking out at so many of you who are so young, we need to attract and retain the best talent. And in the youngest generation, we know that this issue is central to you. That is, if you don’t see a workforce that is reflective of the kind of community you want to be a part of, you won’t remain in it.
And so for leadership, it’s self-interested now to be mobilized on this issue. And I just want to pick up on what Marc said, and we may come back to this, I think it is absolutely on leadership. The example you set and the way you engage in every aspect of your work will demonstrate the commitment and set the example for your team, whether the team is ten people or ten thousand people or a hundred thousand people. You don’t set that example you can’t expect your organization to emulate your lead.
BRIGETY: Yeah, so let me say two things. So, first, as a way of further amplifying Liz’s fantastic remarks, the case that she just made seems self-evident to us. Notwithstanding the empirical data or the normative power, it is not self-evident to a lot of people. You know, Tucker Carlson had a piece—(laughter)—why are you laughing? (Laughter.) Tucker Carlson had a piece on his show just a couple of months ago in which he essentially said, you know, show me any society in which, you know, people who are different have got along better, society is better. And he didn’t just sort of come out of that out of thin air. There are a lot of people who believe that.
And so part of the reason to continue to make this case—I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard either directly or you kind of see the side-eye, gosh, another diversity training. Like, why do we have to sort of do this again? Didn’t the Council, like, have this meeting, like, five years ago? Like, why do we have to keep doing it? (Laughter.) Here’s why. Let me give you—talk to you by way of analogy, right? So I’m a person of faith. I’m a Christian. It would never occur to me to say: You know what? I went to Sunday school once back in 1978. You know, I got the basic principles, check. Got it. Don’t have to do it again. No, right?
I mean, one has to continue to reemphasize the importance of this body of work in this effort, if for no other reason that we simply can’t assume that as generations come they will imbibe the lessons that have been so hard-fought won previously. And if anything I think, quite frankly, you know, Charlottesville, or Pittsburgh, or, you know, Christchurch continue to reemphasize that. So that’s one.
Two, I’ll give you just a couple of very short concrete examples about how diverse teams have helped my thinking. So as dean, you know, over half of our students at the Elliot School are women, at both the undergraduate and graduate level. And there’s a fair amount of, you know, evidence suggests particularly early in an undergraduate career young ladies tend not to be as assertive in class as young men are. So I had a policy, everybody knows this, when Dean B comes and guest lectures, I have—I have gender-equity in questioning. So, you know, ladies, gentlemen, ladies, gentlemen, ladies, gentlemen.
I thought I was doing the right thing until one of my team members, who’s a gay may, came to me and said: Boss, I know what you’re trying to do. But there are a number of our students who don’t identify either as male or female on a gender—on a binary gender continuum. And thus, you’re actually being exclusionary when you’re actually trying to be inclusionary. And I was like, wow. You’re absolutely right. It never occurred to me. My bad. And we kind of think about other ways of doing it. I can talk—I can give you examples ad nauseum, but I don’t want to take the rest of the day. But, yeah, basically it’s continuing to be important, and leadership is vitally important.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Can I speak up on one thing, because it flows directly from what you said about the need to keep going to Sunday school, essentially, or learning. One of the things about this for all of us is this is never done. It’s, as you’ve said, it’s an ongoing enterprise. But also, because what we need is a prepared talent pipeline. We have to be focused on this thinking about the people who will be leading thirty years after us, and looking at elementary schools, and junior high schools, and high schools. And it—and ensuring that the resources are being made available to grow up the talent that is diverse across this land, that we don’t have kids who are left out, who don’t get a chance to participate in the workforce of the future, because we get to hire people who have come through that pipeline now. But we also need to be investing, just as you’re saying we need to keep learning, we need to be investing for that future.
ALLEN: Yeah. I would just say that it’s not rocket science. That all the surveys show that value comes out of diverse groups working together. And it’s—you know, I just give everyone the picture and say: Just imagine if you’re holding, you know, a huge diamond in your hand, and you hold it up to the light, right? That diamond refracts light, and it comes off in all kinds of different planes off of every facet of the diamond. And the only way to really understand the quality of the diamond, would be to go and examine every single facet, right, to turn it around and look at it from every single angle. And that’s how you solve the world’s hardest problems. That’s what we got to do in the most complex industrial engineering business in the world, with aerospace. That’s what our leaders have to do in international affairs, solve the most complex and difficult problems.
And if you could only look through one or two of the facets, you are really limited. And no leader worth their salt has the answer. Leaders worth their salt know that it’s the team that has the answer. And that means you want people who are looking for as many facets as possible to find the solutions. That’s why those teams are better. And one very quick example anecdotally. We had—we had one country—this is several year ago. But we had one country where a customer was flying one of our airplanes. And the airplane was not performing to some of the performance specs that were in the contract and we all expected it would. Performance specs means flying on—the amount of fuel, range, expectations, payload expectations, et cetera.
And, boy, we threw every resource we had at it. We had engineers look at it. We had pilot take it out on test flights. We had their team looking at it. We had the best of class thinking coming in from every angle. And it persisted. The problem persisted for something like six to eight months. Couldn’t figure out why the airplane wasn’t performing. Everything seemed right. And then there was a new member of the team who got exposed to the problem, who came from a different country.
And he said, you know what? When I was growing up in this business we had a problem where the cargo crews were sneaking extra cargo into the belly of the airplane. And then when it got offloaded by their friends they were taking charges for it, moving the extra cargo around. It was in a relatively developing aerospace environment. And he said, and we had a problem with performance, because you have extra weight on the airplane. Guess what? It turned out that’s exactly what it was. How did you solve it? You had such a diverse team that you caught that experience set and you brought it in. That’s why diversity is clearly valuable and why it pays.
ZARATE: Yeah. That diversity of experience is remarkably important.
Can each of you speak, especially to this audience which is ambitious and clearly wants to find ways of improving opportunities in each of the domains that you all represent. Can you speak to the internationalization of the domains that you operate in? Marc, you’ve already spoken to this in part from your experience in Beijing, but how that internationalization also shapes the way you’re thinking about the future of leadership, the future of training, and what those opportunities look like for people in the audience or people who may be watching us later on. By the way, we’re being recorded, so on your best behavior. Marc, can you speak to that, the internationalization of the marketplace?
ALLEN: You know, look, when I ran Boeing International I got to look and peer into every single market we have around the world. And a couple things strike you right off the bat. The first is, they all begin to seamlessly run together. They all have the same data and information that one another had, which was not the case just ten years ago. So the seamlessness of data has made the markets themselves more seamless. And so talent flows faster. Expectations rise on a global level. So everything has to be undertaken at a world level now in our business. And that’s different than it was before. It means you have to think through every aspect of how the world’s going to react to any particular item in your working docket as you do it.
But it also means it’s more fun, because when you think about the values of diversity and inclusion, they look different in terms of the actual application all around the world. One of my greatest joys was when we became a leading employer of females in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. We were one of the first companies there to start hiring females in our finance department. And you know what? The talent was unbelievable. They just were knocking the ball out of the park. And we were able to literally lead and demonstration by example in that market just what the opportunity could be. You wouldn’t ordinarily sit here in, you know, D.C., and think about that as an opportunity for leadership. But it is, that global opportunity for leadership is now available in a much more internationalized way than it was just a few years ago.
BRIGETY: So in the context of international affairs education, you know, the best thing for an international affairs student is to go study abroad, go see the world. The next-best thing is to bring the world to you. And that’s why it’s vitally important to find ways to bring foreign students to come study here in the United States. There are macropolitical policy challenges to that which, quite frankly, are more profound now than they have been in decades. There are also financial issues to it as well, particularly when you want students from non-OECD countries, from Africa, Latin America, parts of South Asia to come study with us.
But the other piece, which goes back to Liz’s point about delivering on the promise of America can building a pipeline, is that it’s very important to ensure that students, regardless of their economic background, regardless of their minority ethnic background, if they—young people that have their eye on the horizon have to be—have a place where they can go and study and we can support them. Now, I’ll tie those two together in just a moment.
The final thing that’s actually really quite interesting—it’s true at GW, I suspect it may be similar at other universities—we have, predictably, a very robust study abroad program. Eighty percent of our study abroad students are women.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Wow, really?
BRIGETY: The guys don’t go.
ZARATE: Is that right? Wow, that’s a remarkable stat.
BRIGETY: Yeah. Let’s pretty stunning. And so to tie each of the—all three of those strands together, what I would say is this: If you believe in diversity, you have to resource it. You have to resource it in terms of both human capital and financial capital. If I want to bring, you know, really promising students from South Sudan and Nigeria or from the South Side of Chicago, or from, you know, East L.A., they might be a brilliant as anybody. But they most likely don’t have the social capital in order to sort of find the right places to go, and they certainly don’t have the financial capital to do it.
So—and that’s where leadership comes in, to decide: This is something that’s going to be very important that we have to resource it. And I have to say, you know, a shameless plug for the Council, back to Liz’s point, the kinds of conversations that we’re having today would have been unimaginable in this space twenty years ago. And the fact that we’re having them is a direct result and example of the kind of leadership that the leadership of CFR has placed on not only is it diversifying the Council but diversifying the Council as a pathway for diversifying the foreign affairs establishment of the United States of America. And I just, frankly, couldn’t be prouder of that effort.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: So I think I’d like to say something about who we are in the world as Americans. We are in tumultuous times at the moment, and yet I will say that we have the capacity not only to strengthen our own democracy but also to strengthen democracies around the world by our example. And the fact of the opportunities that we have in America for women and for minorities, even though we are not as far along the path as we need to be, and that path will be a continuous one as we were saying, is so far ahead of what many people experience in many countries around the world, that when you live your dream to serve and you go out and show people what you can do in America, that changes their life too.
And I’ll give you a small example of this. When I was in my early thirties I worked at the Pentagon as the deputy assistant secretary of defense. And I was working with a country that had been part of the Soviet Union and had been closed off to the world for decades. And after much work together to help this country develop its independence and its sovereignty, the defense minister decided he wanted to open a military academy in his country. And he asked me to come and speak at the opening of this military academy. And I said to him—I was then young, female, civilian, political appointee. And I said, oh, no, no, no. Let me send you one of our generals with lots of stars on his shoulders to speak at your opening. And he said, no Liza—he called me Liza—I want you to come and speak, because I want my people to see what women can do in America.
And that’s an example of the power we have to inspire and transform. So we need to live up to it at home through the initiatives that we’re talking about today, about the requirement for leaders to set the standards in their own organizations and to drive change, and also to take that out into the world and help others who don’t have the same privileges that we do to achieve their dreams too.
ZARATE: That’s a powerful story.
BRIGETY: Hear, hear.
ZARATE: And it’s the example internally and externally as well, the tapestry of the U.S., and the richness of our culture, the diversity.
By the way, I just want to reflect on this, because I’ve written a bit about the national security implications of this, right? Which is the power of not just our diversity to influence abroad with our values and principles to reflect who we are, but even the ability to influence and shape opinions and environments, precisely because we have diversity, because we have Somali Americans in Minneapolis, precisely because we have Mexican-Americans on the border, precisely because we have any group that you can imagine from around the world present in the U.S., and leaders capable of doing great things not just in the U.S. and abroad.
BRIGETY: Juan, if I may, I’d take that a step further. There’s not another country on the planet that has this level diversity that also has access to serving in capacities and ways that we do. So not only is it smart to empower it, I would argue it’s harmful to our national interest not to empower it.
ZARATE: Exactly right.
BRIGETY: Right? And so, interestingly the professional sides of the house in the Defense Department, in the uniformed military, the intelligence community, and the State Department completely gets this. And it’s important for there to be continued political leadership to reinforce the message of diversity as a core component of America’s national security.
ZARATE: A strategic asset, no doubt.
ZARATE: All right. We’re going to open it up now to you all. So hopefully you’ve thought of some great—
BRIGETY: Good for you for raising your hand immediately. (Laughter.) Well done.
ZARATE: We’re going to start with you in front. If you can—remember, we’re on the record, speak into the microphone, identify yourself, and keep it to one question, please. Thank you.
Q: Oh, OK. Hi, everyone. My name—oh, I didn’t know there were so many people behind me. Hi. (Laughter.) And my name is Shang Dee (ph). I am a UC San Diego student, currently intern on the Hill.
And my take on diversity, which very interesting thing happened this week. There are three hearings on House Committee on Foreign Affairs about U.S. and China relations, but the witnesses who doesn’t have the diversity to tackle, I think, the complexity of the question. There’s no—I don’t see any Chinese Americans on that panel. And me myself, being a Chinese national, that it puts me at an odd situation in that room. But that’s just the comment that—a daily observation that I’ve made, that we do need more diversity in the realm of foreign relations.
And my question, actually going back to what you said about where do we start teaching this unlearning and relearning of diversity, equity, and inclusion in our higher education? So I want you all, my peers, to raise your hand if your school, undergrad, grad, whatever, has a requirement for something called DI requirement, a class that you have to take or a course curriculum that you have to complete in order to graduate. If you do, raise your hand.
Q: UC Berkeley. (Laughter.)
Q: Right? Have some school pride, yeah. So only this whole room, maybe it’s such an American university thing, maybe I’m being kind of exclusive, other people who have other kind of education. But it’s not half of the room. It’s not a quarter of the room. It’s probably like only 5 percent of the room. So what are we—what’s U.S. education doing—let’s just look at the higher education level—to really bring these ideas into the daily lives of the students in which are crucial important in business world, in professional world? And how can we address that lack of diversity in the way—the pedagogy of teaching diversity, equity and inclusion? Thank you.
ZARATE: It’s a good question. Little shorter next time, but that’s good. (Laughter.)
BRIGETY: So let me answer it a couple of different ways, briefly. So, first of all, to take a point of what sort of Marc said, about the importance of listening and sharing. As a leader, as a professional, one’s ability to engage in diverse environments is not simply a nice personality trait. It is a core professional competence, increasingly so, right?
ALLEN: Well said. Well said.
BRIGETY: The work world, the diplomatic world, the academic world that all of you are going into will look very different from that that your grandparents went into. And that sort of generational divide about why this is some important how do we operationalize it, how do we think about it, I think is explained in part by virtue of who’s in the room, as opposed to who’s not. So that’s one.
Two, having said that, it is extremely important that we think through how we teach, how we inculcate, how we prioritize matters of diversity within our organizations, in ways that are also consistent with both the letter and the spirit of the law. And because it is—it’s very easy, from a place of trying to do the right thing, to legally get it wrong, it doesn’t mean that one should shy away from it. Exactly the opposite. You have to lean in as a leader as far as you legally can and not shy away from it. But it’s also crucially important that it’s done in the right now.
ZARATE: Young lady in the back, please.
Q: Hi. Good evening. My name is Lesley Warner, I’m on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
I’ve talked to one of you on the panel about this particular issue, but I’m kind of curious given that this is a conference for entry level and mid-level professionals. We’re not at your levels. So I’m curious as to your thoughts on how we can influence organizations to embrace diversity, not for diversity’s sake but for some of the reasons that you mentioned. How do we influence the organizations in which we work now, and in which we will work in the future, at the mid-level to get to them embrace diversity?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: I’ll begin this by just saying I think the best way you can influence the organization within which you work is to be excellent. That is, by your example you change your environment. And I mentioned that when I began here at the Council there were no young women. I do think that rather than looking around and feeling like one is alone, it’s very empowering to think: How cool is it that I’m here? And let me use this opportunity to pay it forward and show people that there’s benefit in having people like me at the table and work your everything off to demonstrate that. (Laughter.) So that’s the first.
The second is, of course, you want to look for leadership that is open to a conversation. And here, I would say this is back to the responsibility of leaders today to be truly willing to be made uncomfortable to hear truth, to listen to experience that is different than your own, and to take in on board. And that means you need to ask of your leadership, if it’s not paying attention, to engage them on the grounds of their interests. As I was mentioning, if they’re not willing to do it on principle, then do it because it’s important to their future to have a conversation about what’s going on in the environment. If you believe that it’s actually disadvantageous, that it’s creating a situation which will be negative in terms of recruitment and retention, and the ultimate substance of the work not getting done successfully.
So it’s both about who you are and also how you seek out those who are willing to engage with you in a conversation about building a process that will bring more diverse talent to the environment in which you work.
ZARATE: Marc, did you want to say something?
ALLEN: Yeah, I wanted—I think that is a brilliant answer on both those fronts, and I really want to underscore those pieces because both are so critical to changing the landscape around you. I will add a third piece on as well, which is sometimes you have to extent your wing. And everybody has a wing, even if you don’t feel like you do. What I mean that is, you know, I think that—
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: That’s a Boeing phrase. Extend your wing. (Laughter.)
ALLEN: I’m thinking bird’s wing.
ZARATE: He has some great phrases. They’re all Boeing assets.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: We use elbows, but. (Laughter.)
ALLEN: I’m thinking of a guy named Leo who came to, gosh, I don’t know, five, six years ago. And he was, you know, a relatively mid-level leader in our organization. And he just said: Hey, Marc, I want you to meet somebody. She works in X city. She does Y. And she’s very talented. She’s excellent. And I think you just should hear her story. And so I, you know, met with her the next time she came through where my office was. And the story I heard, you know, upset me—when I heard some things she’d experienced in the workplace. And so, you know, for me, extending the wing was making sure we could move her into a different environment and give a job where she would soar. She was excellent and is excellent.
For Leo to pick up the phone and ask me to meet somebody who’s, you know, an entry-level, just out of college hire, because he thought they were excellent, that was him extending his wing. He was protecting and giving some cover to her. And then my engaging and helping her get into the right job in the right place was my extending my wing. And that’s important. And it takes knowing people across your organization who really are committed to organizational health and integrity and making sure that the right thing is done. But sometimes it requires you to step out of your comfort zone. For Leo, it would have been a little uncomfortable to pick up the phone and call me the way that he did. But he did it. And all of you can be in a position to do the same thing.
Sometimes you’re a little bit uncomfortable when you lean forward and expose yourself that way, step out on a limb for somebody else. But that is one way in which anybody can make a different in an organization at any level.
BRIGETY: Can I response to the most excellent Dr. Lesley Warner’s question? Lesley’s a rock star, by the way. If you don’t know her you need to, before you leave. So in specific answer to the question about what can mid-level people do, in addition to what Liz and Marc said? Ask the question. Ask the question. Let me give you two examples from my own experience. It was probably the greatest honor of my life that I will ever have to serve President Obama in a number of senior capacities in the State Department. But early on his administration, for the first half, of the several hundred people that worked on the national security staff, there was only one African American other than the national security advisor.
And I remember having this conversation with a friend of mine who was on the NSC staff who was a woman, who was a white woman. And she said, you know—you know, yeah, there are only the—you know, whatever—you know, a couple dozen, you know, women. And we went into the national security advisor’s office and said: You know, why aren’t there more women? And I said, you know, interestingly, there were enough of you to know that there were not enough of you. And so fast forward, not that much fast forward, I had a conversation. I was on a State Department trip with a senior political appointee. And I raised with this person essentially this issue, right? I mean, there are—how is it, this is the Obama administration, there’s, like, one—maybe there’s another one. Maybe there’s two out of, whatever, 350 NSC.
And this person said to me, you know, that’s a very good point. The problem is we just don’t know enough people. We don’t know anybody, right? Which gets back to the—because I’m in rooms like this all the time with people that want to engage, that are excellent, that are talented, that want to do this very deep sort of talent pool at the entry and kind of junior, mid-level people. And then conversely, with very senior people, you know, like, gosh, we’d like to hire some folks, but the pipeline should just be better. No. The pipeline is there. The pipeline needs to be connected to your slipstream. And the only way that happens is, one, by asking the question—because, quite frankly, there are—there are—there are people just—I’ll give you another example. Again, I could go on and on.
ZARATE: You’re on a roll.
BRIGETY: I’m on a roll. (Laughter.) Love the military. Very grateful to have worn the cloth of my country. Of the four military branches in the Department of Defense—the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps—the United States Marine Corps is the only one of the services that has only ever had white men at the four-star level, despite the fact that all four services integrated at literally exactly the same time, when President Truman desegregated the armed forces in 1948. And despite the fact that all three other services combined have now had fourteen four-stars who are African American alone, let alone other ethnic minorities and other women. How is that? Why is that happening?
So I had this conversation with a senior former Marine Corps officer. And he said, really? I had no idea. And he didn’t. I mean, it literally didn’t occur to him. It didn’t occur to him. But I can tell you, that is a blinding, flashing indicator for every African American Marine Corps officer, because every one of them is asking themselves: If I do my very best, if I give the Marine Corps my all, is it possible the Marine Corps will reward me with the highest rank? And if the answer is yes, where’s the evidence? Because there’s never been one. So you got to ask the question.
ZARATE: Let’s ask another question. (Laughter.) Sir, back there.
Q: Hello. My name is Kamaal Thomas. I’m a cyber policy researcher at the Carnegie Endowment.
My question, I just wanted to know if you all could share some stories of some of the challenges you faced in terms of diversity, and some just general tips on how to navigate those situations.
BRIGETY: Where to start? (Laughter.)
ALLEN: Juan, I think you should—
ZARATE: I’m the presider. (Laughter.) One anecdote, something that sticks in your mind that was either an impediment or something you had to—
BRIGETY: I got one. I got one. I got one. (Laughter.)
ZARATE: I knew it, Ruben.
BRIGETY: Yeah, yeah. (Laughter.) So I was—you know, when I was ambassador to the African Union, you know, we were at, you know, obviously an embassy compound. Our embassy had basically a post exchange, essentially, which was the most popular place in all of Addis Ababa, because you get all kinds of, like, American goods flown in. So you—you can’t tell anybody this. It’s a secret. You can’ tell anybody this. I have a Pringle addiction. (Laughter.) So every once in a while I would leave my office, go to the PX, get a box of Pringles. So I had a three-piece suit on, going to buy my pringles.
And we had this delegation from one government agency that was there. And I was going to buy these Pringles, and one of the delegation, an American, says to me: Excuse me, how much is this thing on the shelf? And I was like, oh, I’m sorry. I don’t know. I don’t work here. They say, oh, I’m sorry, I thought you were the manager. I said, no I’m not the manager. I’m the ambassador. (Laughter.) And interestingly, he was an American of African descent, right? So it just never occurred to him that a black man walking around in this space could be anything other than the staff.
I’ve had that experience more times than I could possibly—I can’t stand in front of a hotel in Washington, D.C. without somebody asking me to park their car. (Laughter.) Routinely, especially if I’m wearing a bowtie. (Laughter.) So eventually, right, I mean—(laughter)—it’s true. Honestly, it is. Honestly, it is. One of these days I’m just going to pull, like, a James Bond and just take the car, I swear to God. (Laughter.) I swear to God. (Laughter.) Right? And so, quite frankly, I mean, it takes a consistently level head to kind of figure out how do you kind of respond in ways that are appropriate, notwithstanding the fact that no matter how high you progress it everybody’s first instinct to see you as the help.
ALLEN: I think it’s absolutely undeniable, right? You walk around with brown skin in America, you’re going to get looked at differently. You walk around as a woman in America you’re going to get looked at differently. And we could go to different countries around the world and in different countries different things will be the trigger. So the first thing we have to do is realize it’s not just an American matter. It’s a bigger, global matter. And it’s just a human matter, frankly. And in that sense, all humans will live with this sense of self and other forever, I believe.
So we just have to first acknowledge, we’ve all had these experiences. We’ve all been asked way too many times how we’re going to help, as opposed to not having that as a first assumption. But I heard from Shonda Rhimes something that was—like, it puts words to something I had always believe deep in my core and had acted to, but finally put words to it. And it was real simple. It was this. It was conscious obliviousness. Conscious obliviousness. The idea is simple: I’m very conscious of that reality that I just described.
I’m very conscious that when I am in one part of the world if it’s America, just to use where we are, since that’s just something we all likely share in many ways, I’m going to be perceived through the lens of being a black man in America. That’s just a reality. And obliviousness. I need to be oblivious, because if I spend my time looking at that, I’m not spending my time doing the things that make me excellent. That’s why conscious obliviousness matters so much. Yeah, be aware, be conscious. But then put it away and be oblivious, and live oblivious, and focus on cybersecurity.
Focus on what you do, and be excellent, back to that first point, and put out your wings to help others, and let your heart shine, and share yourself with the world, and people will be impressed because they will get to know you. But you have to live, in that sense, above it. If you live in it, eh, didn’t work for me. Get above it, worked for me.
ZARATE: Yes, up here in front.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: I was going to say something to the women here.
ZARATE: Please. (Laughter.)
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: So that was two very powerful statements. I have to absorb all that. So my experiences with this—this is actually a very meaningful exchange because it shows how different experiences are for different individuals and how we all need to hear each other. Most of my experiences with what you’ve asked about when I was younger. And young women in the national security field were not familiar those who had been in the field forever. And when I was young and working on the Hill, it was the norm for men who were senior, they could be members of Congress or staff, to think that young women were fair game. You were not—that was just—that was just the way things were. Not the senator I worked for, never Joe Biden, but others.
So I will say here, I just want to pick up on what Marc said and then get to a story. I do think it’s quite important not to get mad and not to lose your cool. And to try to build a bridge with whomever you’re dealing with who just doesn’t get who you are. And those people may hold the keys to the kingdom for you. You don’t know necessarily. You may need to find a way over whatever the weirdness is that their attitude presents you with. You hold the power to do that.
So here’s my wonderful story. I did go to work for Joe Biden. I was twenty-six. I was his chief foreign affairs and defense policy advisor. I’d just finished my Ph.D. And he asked me to go out on a listening tour to listen to his constituents. And I want to a military base in his state, and the preparations had been made for me to arrive. My name then was just Sherwood. I hadn’t married Jeff Randall yet. So it was just Dr. Sherwood. And I arrived, I got out of a car, and there was a red carpet. And a person met me at the end of the red carpet. And I stood up. And the person put out his hand and said: When is Dr. Sherwood arriving? (Laughs.) And I realized I didn’t look like Dr. Sherwood to him, right? That wasn’t what he was anticipating.
And in that moment, it was one of these moments where you just have to think, OK, present yourself as you wish to be seen and build a bridge, because the alternative is to create a moment that’s very uncomfortable and not be able to move forward. So I just think we have to—we have to handle these things—as you said, rise above, be Zen, and show these people that they need to deal with you on your terms.
BRIGETY: Can I just add one more thing? I know we’re running out of time. But I want to talk about the importance of allyship in this space. So I’m a southern gentleman. My mother raised me to be a decent gentleman. My father set a very good example. Notwithstanding that, I’m ashamed that it didn’t come—that I didn’t come into a certain knowledge set until I was about forty-five. And that’s when the #MeToo movement happened. And literally when the first hashtag #MeToo started coming—this would be about a year and a half two years ago, and my Facebook feed exploded with women, friends, colleagues who said: #MeToo, and here’s my story. Or, just #MeToo. That’s all they needed to say.
And what occurred to me is the knowledge that most women live with, at a minimum, a degree of inappropriateness, to much worse. That if happened to most men, we’d want to hurt somebody. And that, frankly, has made me, as an ally, much more supportive as an ally on women and gender issues and, frankly, caused me just to think much more deeply about differential ways in which, you know, women can be treated, and how one could be much more supportive in that regard. And that—and so I would encourage all of you to think about ways in which you can be an ally to—and in ways that just wouldn’t necessarily occur to you.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Could I say one thing? Because there is a debate in this diversity and inclusion space about what it means to be an ally. And I’ve heard it in various settings. And want to say, I come out of the national security world. To me, an ally is defined in this way: An attack on one is an attack on all. That’s what it means if you’re someone’s ally. That what it means in the context of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, our principal military alliance. (Laughter.) So when we say ally, this is what we mean, right? That means that when you describe what you just described, it makes me want to fight for you, right?
BRIGETY: Exactly. And likewise. Exactly right.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: So that is—that’s what it means to understand someone’s story, their perspective, what they’re experiencing. Another example of this, in the summer of 2016, when our cities were on fire around this country, and I was then DepSec at the Energy Department, we had 113,000 people strewn out all across this country doing many, many different kinds of jobs. And I was beginning to see real stress in our workforce. And I asked for the opportunity to go out and talk with our people informal settings, not like up on a podium like this, but get into a room where the staff hung out just to socialize with one another normally, not to have leadership there, and hear their stories.
And I will never forget the moment of being out at Germantown, where we had thousands of federal workers working for DOE, and hearing a woman say to me with tear in her eyes—an African American woman, worked for DOE all her life—when she left for work in the morning she wasn’t sure she would see her teenage son alive again at night. Every day she worried about his safety going to school and back. Shook me to the core. That’s the kind of thing, when you hear those stories—and Tim McClees was my chief of staff at DOE is sitting there shaking his head because he was there with me. When you hear these stories, it changes you and it makes you want to stand as an ally together to make our country better. That’s what we all have to own every day.
Q: Hi, everybody. I’m Victoria Tellez, and I’m a financial researcher for a nonprofit think tank.
So my question is, since I’m a numbers girl, when I think about diversity and inequality, I also think about financial inequality, and economic inequality, and kind of the pipeline you talked about, into mobility, in this field that I’m very attracted to. But it’s very hard for me to think about, you know, if you make it through the college process and you get from school financially, it seems very difficult to get those internships on the Hill that are unpaid, or entry into this field. And somebody who has to support their parents in retirement, sister in college, it’s really hard for me to think about the balance between serving my country and serving my family financially. So how do you balance that? Does it have to be a struggle? Do I have to go into the private sector and do finance for ten years and then come out and try to do something good? Like how do you balance that desire?
ZARATE: It’s a fundamental part of the question of inclusivity. How do you—
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Well, I mean, I’ll begin with the—and interestingly, there was—there was a hearing today in the House on this very issue, of the STEM pipeline in this country, looking at the challenge of supporting a more diverse STEM pipeline through investment in our minority-serving institutions. And one of the facts we now know is that kids coming out of these institutions carry a disproportionate burden of aid that is a huge impediment to freedom to choose what to do with their lives. And so this reflects on what you were saying.
This is on our country to choose to invest in, to create more of a level playing field. And some of it involves the federal government, some of it involves philanthropy, a lot of it involves the private sector. You look at some of the data on what major companies are doing to support the raising up of talent and trying, again, to level the playing field. Some of it is on our universities. But we all have a role to play in this. And your individual, you know, set of—the balancing act you have is familiar to many. And what I would be seeking if I were in your case—in your situation would be allies, to look to my leadership of the place I work, to look for the kinds of support that are available through philanthropy, to seek ways to propel yourself and still do the job you need to do for your family, and find ways to achieve that balance. Which may mean sometimes you save money and sometimes you’re going to spend it, right? And when you go into public service, you tend to spend down whatever saving you had, and then you have to dig yourself back up out of that hole. So I would say it’s going to be a—it’ll be juggling or balancing, but you’ll find a way.
BRIGETY: I’ll say quickly two things. One, what you’ve articulated is a very real issue. I hear this from students and young colleagues all the time. And so I would offer two things. First is: Life is long, and so is your career. So think about sequencing, right? So the idea that you may have to take a higher-paying job now doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to return to public service. The idea that you’re taking a lower-paying job now doesn’t mean that you’ll never make money. And it is OK to make money. It’s entirely legitimate. The second thing I would say is that part of the key to making money, eventually, is not only your professional excellence, it’s also your social capital. It’s the ability to be in places in the slipstream where opportunities present themselves that will allow you to develop.
So continue to develop your social networks. I give this charge to everybody—beyond, like, the financial piece, just for your professional growth—every single one of you—every single one of you—I’ll say this again. Every single one of you must have as your objective being accepted a term member at the Council on Foreign Relations. (Laughter, applause.) You should apply and you should get in, because one of the great things about being a member of CFR is that once you’re a member everybody who is a member is your peer. And that provides all kinds of professional and other developmental opportunities that, if you’re serious about being a foreign affairs professional, you really need to take advantage of.
ZARATE: Last question. And if you make it quick I’ll call on you. OK, yes, you. (Laughs.) Thank you.
Q: Hello. My name is Nablia Aguila (sp). I’m a graduate from MIT and I’m actually from Ecuador, so I’m one of those Latin Americans.
I have a question more regards to the international foreign policy and diversity, which has been touched before. What I can say to—perhaps to the gentleman from Boeing is—(speaks in Chinese)—meaning, I’m trying to learn Chinese. And my question is—
ALLEN: (Speaks in Chinese.)
Q: Yeah. (Laughs.) how does diversity in regards to China, and also both from the perspective of China and the U.S. and other countries, how does it help us predict the next strategic moves to act accordingly in policy and business?
ALLEN: So if you would, would you just give that last sentence of your question? So I heard the question of predicting how to act, but I didn’t hear who the actor was. Can you give that to me one more time?
Q: OK. So my question is, give that diversity gives us some added value, how does it help us really on the ground figure out that next strategic move, because with China—China is so unpredictable sometimes. So how does it strategically—
ALLEN: So are we. (Laughter.)
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: China’s much more predictable than we are right now. (Laughter.)
ALLEN: Yes, it’s a wonderful question. I got it. Wonderful question. Wonderful question.
Sometimes I feel like a broken record, right? So I apologize in advance if I sound like a broken record here. But I had the chance as young boy to spend a year and a half, two years in France. And that was a really formative part of my growing up experience. And the way I describe it to people now is that it taught me the value of the pause, right? The pause is when you come across something that’s different. And the pause is to, pause, and then begin to think is it different good, different bad, or just different? And the reality of most of us, is that we actually have very little pause, if any. Most of us who grew up in one spot from zero to eighteen, go away to college at some place that looks like where we were from zero to eighteen, we don’t have any pause. When we see something different, it’s bad. This is just a human reality. So the value of the pause is you start thinking, you open the spectrum of listening, because you’re trying to assess different good, different bad, or just different. And that’s where all the best creativity and deal making comes from. And I don’t care if it’s business deal making or if it’s a bilateral or multilateral government-to-government deal making. The best deal making comes from the creativity to listen to multiple parties, understand their interests deeply, to understand it from where they sit, and then begin to build the circles where your interest and their interest overlap, and then design the architecture and the mechanics that are going to bring forward your cooperation. That’s how all good deal making works.
So the whole point about diversity and why it’s so valuable in this global context, including the bilateral relationship, is that when you have two people on both sides who are good at that, you are much more likely to get a deal out of it. You know, Shang Dee’s (ph) point was great earlier today. I’m sorry, not Shang Dee (ph); your name, one more time?
Q: My name?
Q: Yeah, it was Shang Dee (ph).
ALLEN: Shang Dee (ph). Thank you, Shang Dee (ph).
Great point earlier today about when you have a group of leaders in the foreign affairs establishment who sit and testify on the Hill, who may not have much pause because they just haven’t had the exposure or the life experiences because of where they come from. It is not something to be condemned. It’s just a reality. It just is. Like, it would be a more effective foreign policy strategy, in my view, for any country, including for China to the U.S., right, to be able to have people who sit there who have a lot of pause in their natural instinct, because of the way they’ve been exposed to diverse thinking, diverse people, ethnicity, diverse sex and gender characteristics and orientation. I mean, these things are things that give us the lived life experience that help us be creative listeners. So that’s why, to me, it would make a big difference that kind of bilateral construct.
ZARATE: Unfortunately, that’s all we have time for. I just want to make a personal comment and honor my parents, father who came from Mexico, mother who came from Cuba, who in their aspiration to come to America, viewing it as the greatest country on Earth, gave me and our family an opportunity to serve. And just to end on a high note, many of my experiences as a national security official have been those that have been amazed both around the world and even in the United States that the child of immigrants coming from Mexico and Cuba could end up at the right hand of the president and be representing the United States. And for all of us, I think it’s been an honor to be able to represent this country in a variety of ways.
And I want to thank all of you for your time. We now have a networking session. Please join me in thanking Marc, Ruben, and Elizabeth. (Applause.)