Women in U.S. National Security, With Jamie Jones Miller and Shelly O’Neill Stoneman

Jamie Jones Miller and Shelly O’Neill Stoneman, executive committee co-chairs of The Leadership Council for Women in National Security (LCWINS), sit down with James M. Lindsay to discuss the challenges of achieving gender parity in the U.S. national security community. 

May 31, 2022 — 32:56 min
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James M. Lindsay

Senior Vice President, Director of Studies, and Maurice R. Greenberg Chair Full Bio

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Jamie Jones Miller and Shelly O’Neill Stoneman, executive committee co-chairs of The Leadership Council for Women in National Security (LCWINS), sit down with James M. Lindsay to discuss the challenges of achieving gender parity in the U.S. national security community. 

 

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The Leadership Council for Women in National Security (2022)

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Transcript

James Lindsay:

Welcome to The President's Inbox, a CFR podcast about the foreign policy challenges facing the United States. I'm Jim Lindsay, Director of Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. This week's topic is women in US National Security.

James Lindsay:

With me to discuss the challenges to achieving gender parity in the US National Security community are Jamie Jones Miller and Shelly O'Neill Stoneman. Jamie and Shelly are the executive committee co-chairs of the Leadership Council for Women in National Security, an organization that aims to elevate women into senior National Security positions in the US federal government. Jamie is the inaugural dean and CEO of Northeastern University's Arlington Virginia Campus. She has previously served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs and is Deputy Assistant Secretary for House Affairs. Shelly is the senior vice president of Government Relations for BAE Systems. She previously served as special assistant to the Secretary of Defense in White House Liaison for Defense Secretaries Bob Gates, Leon Panetta, and Chuck Hagel. She also served as special assistant to the president for White House Legislative Affairs. Jamie and Shelly, thanks for joining me today.

Shelly O'Neill Stoneman:

Thanks so much for having us, Jim. We're delighted to be here.

Jamie Jones Miller:

Thanks for having us, Jim.

James Lindsay:

I'm going to start with you, Shelly. And I would like it if we could just begin with you describing for us what is the mission of the Leadership Council for Women in National Security?

Shelly O'Neill Stoneman:

Absolutely. It is a wonderful organization that was established in 2019 by a group of five founding women of diverse backgrounds out of the Foreign Policy and National Security community who essentially realized that unless women banded together and identified the areas where women should be leading at the highest levels of the National Security Committee, it was never going to happen. Just talking about it was not going to lead to real demonstrative action. So what this group does is, we're a nonpartisan, non-profit organization aimed at advancing quality women from any political background, class, lived experience, and certainly diversity to the most senior National Security roles. We advocate for strengthening National Security through gender parity. And we also provide specific training to the top qualified women to help navigate their presidential appointment process. However, our goals are beyond just the presidential appointment process and we truly do aim in the future to bring women to the highest levels of all parts of the National Security corridors, including Capitol Hill, think tanks, industry, and beyond.

James Lindsay:

Now I want to be clear here. You go by the acronym LCWINS.

Shelly O'Neill Stoneman:

Right.

James Lindsay:

And you have a website which is lcwins.org.

Shelly O'Neill Stoneman:

That's right.

James Lindsay:

Do you want to do a plug for your website before we move on here, Shelly?

Shelly O'Neill Stoneman:

I'd love to do a plug for it. Our website, which actually we're about to do a relaunch of, to make it even more user friendly, we have a whole variety of everything from being able to see the incredible women and men who are part of our Honorary Advisory Council and steering committee, kind of all the folks who actually drive LCWINS on the day to day, but also more importantly, the webinars, which actually I think I'd love to talk about a little bit more as we get going. The webinars are free content that help women and allies from any background navigate the political appointment process, really pulling back the curtain on how it works and how to position yourself to get into it as well as all the dos and don'ts.

James Lindsay:

You have a very interesting political appointments tracker among the other tabular data that you have on the website. People want to sort of get a sense of the numbers that go with this conversation.

Shelly O'Neill Stoneman:

Right.

James Lindsay:

So I would recommend it to people. Again, it's lcwins.org. Jamie, I want to bring you into the conversation and perhaps you could sketch for us what you see is the nature of the problem. Because I imagine some people listening to our conversation would look at the Biden cabinet, for example, and say, "Wait a second, there are a lot of women in this cabinet. You have Kamala Harris as vice president. We have Janet Yellen, Secretary of Treasury, Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence, Gina Raimondo, Secretary of Commerce, Linda Thomas-Greenfield at the United Nations, Jennifer Granholm at Energy. I know people think of energy as really being about oil, but a big chunk of the Department of Energy's budget is about nuclear things, particularly nuclear weapons. And of course you have Katherine Tai at USTR. So help me understand the problem.

Jamie Jones Miller:

Well, I am cheering as you're reading off all of those names. It is very exciting to see women in these positions. And we know in particular in the National Security space, it's hard to take an apples to apples approach in measuring gender diversity across administrations because roles fluctuate. You might have a position on the cabinet in one administration that's not in another. There are new Senate confirmed roles that are established by legislation which expand the number of opportunities for women to serve. We're primarily focused on that National Security space. So taking the Pentagon as an example, there are approximately 60 Senate confirmed jobs at DOD. So gender parity would translate into 30 of those roles going to women. And prior to this administration and the establishment of LCWINS in 2019, we know that less than 80 women had been Senate confirmed political appointees over the department's existence. So less than 80 in the history of the Department of Defense.

Jamie Jones Miller:

And so as we look at the various administrations, we know the Trump administration confirmed nine women to top DOD spots, with a 10th pending confirmation. We know women occupied National Security roles at state and energy during various points of the administration. We saw Obama with a record of 31 women in appointed DOD positions over its eight year term. 40% of all female appointees in the department's history, 18 of which came in the first term. So at LCWINS, we see this and we track it administration by administration, but we're really only looking at data kind of at one particular point in time. And what I say all the time to women I'm talking to who are interested in getting in the National Security field is I hope LCWINS is around in the next administration and the one after that, because we're continuing to raise this issue and talk about why gender diversity is important in the National Security space.

James Lindsay:

On the good news front, I should point out that last month, the United States Senate confirmed Admiral Linda Fagan as the Commandant of the Coast Guard, making her the first woman to head a US military branch. She took over as commandant of the Coast Guard on June 1. So there are other things that are happening. Do we have a sense, Jamie, in terms of what the gender picture looks like when we move away from sort of top tier positions and we go down in either the defense department, the state department, or I'm thinking of the staff or the National Security Council?

Jamie Jones Miller:

So yes, please visit lcwins.org because we have a tracker on our website where you can check day to day what is the state of play in the National Security enterprise. And of course we are focused on raising women into very senior National Security roles, so the deputy assistant secretary level and above. But we know that those women need a pipeline to rise into those ranks and they need a network of support and allies and they need to be equipped with the playbook to get there. And so that's really kind of where LCWINS came in, is we know that there are qualified women who have the opportunity to serve, but we need intentional and deliberate leadership in the government and in the Congress who are willing to elevate women and help women elevate themselves into that space. And so LCWINS wants to be a partner there.

James Lindsay:

Shelly, let's talk about why it's important to have gender diversity in the US National Security community. One argument is what political scientists like to call the importance of descriptive representation, that you should have a government that looks like the people that it serves. But there are also arguments that if you change the gender composition of any organization, you're going to change not only how the organization operates, but the priorities it has and the solutions it may generate. So as you look at this question of improving gender diversity, what are you hoping to achieve? What do you think the consequences will be?

Shelly O'Neill Stoneman:

Thanks, Jim. I think that's a really important question. I mean, research certainly does show that diverse teams are stronger and more effective. They're more creative, innovative. They're more likely to avoid dangerous group think. In women, especially women of color, still are woefully underrepresented in senior positions. As we just discussed, there have been a lot of progress, particularly in the current administration. And it's important to really give kudos to them to where they've stepped up on that. But the lack of gender parity in National Security writ large, overall, even some of the positions that we're not counting, it's not due to a lack of exceptional female candidates, but truly a lack of intentional committed leadership. And that's what we're advocating for. We're saying that gender diversity, it's an issue of fundamental fairness and critically necessary to strengthen the performance of our National Security institutions.

Shelly O'Neill Stoneman:

So by getting these women to the decision making table, you have different perspectives, you have different lived experiences and you have people come together and approach problem solving differently. In fact, I was listening to one of our webinars that we've done in the past that was fantastic. It had Secretary Madeleine Albright, may she rest in peace, she was one of our Honorary Advisory Committee members who was talking about this and how her own lived experience as the secretary of state being in a room with mostly men, how she would tackle a problem solving exercise.

Shelly O'Neill Stoneman:

And she noted the fact that women are of course multitaskers. Obviously, this is not to encapsulate all women that are multitaskers—have to always be kind of thinking around corners and definitely tend to feel as well as think. Don't just look at problems as cut and dry, but also the impact kind of on the human element. She was noting how when she was in a room with some of her female counterparts, how they would approach problems differently than their male counterparts. So it's being able to draw on all the tools in the toolbox when your National Security team looks more like America.

James Lindsay:

And of course, Madeline Albright was the first woman to be named and confirmed as US Secretary of State. Jamie, I want to go to you and ask sort of anything you want to add to what Shelly just said.

Jamie Jones Miller:

What Shelly just said about getting women around the table, hit home for me particularly hard today. So I started my morning with a breakfast of three women that I serve with at the Pentagon and two women who are current interns and are junior staff on Capitol Hill. We have committed to convening this group once a month. The questions that these young women asked us about our Pentagon experience were amazing. They wanted to know what it was like to be in the room. And once we got into the room, once we got that coveted seat at the table, what was it like? How did we represent ourselves? How did we contribute? What could they learn from our experiences? Not only about getting that seat at the table, but actually how to interact once they got there. And I thought that was a pretty interesting and insightful question from these young women.

James Lindsay:

Well, Jamie, I have to ask. Can you give us the abridged version of your answer to that question or those questions?

Jamie Jones Miller:

Yeah. So I had to think about this a little bit because I remember the first time I walked into a room and had that seat at the table. And I'm sure Shelly has similar stories. You worked so hard to finally get your name on the list with that protocol manages and you finally get that name tag and you finally get that seat at the table. And so I told him, I said, I was willing to outwork, out hustle anybody. And that I knew that when I was in that room and at that table, there was a reason and a purpose for me to be there. And that my job, once I got that seat at the table was to start worrying less about keeping that seat and more about figuring out who else needed to be in that room and who else needed to have a voice. And that actually made me a lot less nervous when I finally did get in the room.

James Lindsay:

Let's talk a little bit about why it is that we don't already have gender parity in the US National Security community. Is it a pipeline issue that we're not producing people from the right schools or training programs? Is it a lack of mentorship in talent development? Is it just that there are obstacles, personal and otherwise, to bringing women in? What is your sense of why it is we have made progress, but not as much progress as you'd like to see?

Shelly O'Neill Stoneman:

Sure. Well, I can draw on my experience working as the former White House Liaison to the Pentagon. We had 282 presidential appointees at the Pentagon and I worked very closely with the White House Office of Presidential Personnel at the time. I truly can say that sometimes the biggest obstacle is knowing where to look for talented and diverse women. And this is really where LCWINS can help. Because we're nonpartisan, we approach the problem systematically. It's regardless of who is the president, we want to help them find talented, diverse candidates, both in and out of the traditional National Security corridors in Washington. It can be the Hill, think tanks, current civil servants that tends to be where people generally look. But what LCWINS has done is we bring in folks from around the country, from industry, from academia, from state and local government who may have skills that can apply to these National Security roles.

Shelly O'Neill Stoneman:

And all of these women are excellent qualified candidates who are ready to serve, but just didn't know how to navigate the process. As an example, in September, 2020, LCWINS delivered to the Biden-Harris and Trump-Pence transition teams, two databases, including a total of over 850 exceptional women ready to serve in the most senior National Security and Foreign Policy positions of whatever the next administration was. These roles included approximately 200 Senate confirmed presidential appointed National Security roles. The list that we provided again had these unique women from around the country. They were nominated by either former senior governmental officials, professional colleagues, and others. Some just were friends of a friend in a network that had been developed over time. But the women on these lists collectively have 15,000 years of career experience and they've represented America in every country in the world.

Shelly O'Neill Stoneman:

So 37% of the women on the LCWINS list were women of color, including 14% who are black, and women who identify as LGBTQ made up 5% of those included. So we're very deliberate about thinking through making this a group that looked like America. These databases were a key priority for LCWINS. And so I think that is why we intentionally tackle the problem as not saying it's a mentoring problem or we haven't trained women in academics accordingly. It's truly just knowing where to find them. And that is absolutely where we can help.

James Lindsay:

So you don't see it Shelly as an issue of workplace hostility to women, that these are jobs that are not friendly to women. Obviously, many women may have children. For whatever reason, they may have primary responsibility for their kids. These jobs work very long hours. Is that an issue at all?

Shelly O'Neill Stoneman:

I mean, I think we have to be honest, that is an impediment. It's not just an impediment for women. Men can be caregivers as well. The burden does tend to fall a little more heavily on women. And for example, during COVID, we saw a lot of folks, women, men you know, who were considering what does it mean to reenter the workforce if you had a preexisting condition or a child who was impacted? There were a whole host of reasons that really became very tangible to people as they tried to think about entering the National Security workforce in a way because everything from working at a secure compartmentalized facility requires you to be offline for long chunks of the day to the long hours sometimes the travel required. It can be a barrier, but the key is to think through what are the strategies that agencies can use to kind of grow into the 21st century post COVID world and not just make this a barrier to women. That it should be anyone who wants to be serving in these important roles, but still being able to have that work-life balance.

Jamie Jones Miller:

And here's the good news. LCWINS is a community of women who have navigated every possible scenario you can think of in their career. And so with one email or phone call, you can access someone who's been there, done that, and get some advice and coaching. And how do we clear the path and negotiate to get what we need to make it work in the workplace? I'm really grateful to the LCWINS community for that, because I know that when I need to make that phone call, there's going to be someone there on both sides of the aisle who's going to be able to tell me how she did it.

James Lindsay:

Well, Jamie, tell me what you would say to a person you identify as being talented, having the skills that really belong in government, but their reaction is, "I'm not sure I want to be in that community, work those hours. I'm concerned about the gender dynamics in the workplace, all these responsibilities at home." And you say what?

Jamie Jones Miller:

I would tell that person that there is a place for everyone in public service. And that their network, the LCWINS network, that their network in our community can help them figure out what is going to be the right fit and what is the path that they can take, multiple paths in fact, to get to a role or a position that is going to be right for them at any particular time in their career. And I think when you ask a woman why are they interested in government service, what drives them, really speaking to that passion, they want to serve others, right? They put others before themselves. That can be exhausting sometimes. So if you're putting others before yourself at home, do you really want to do that at work?

Jamie Jones Miller:

But the end of the day, our mission at the Department of Defense to serve the war fighter, gosh, it's compelling. And so I'm never going to talk someone into doing something that they're not comfortable with or doesn't fit their lifestyle at this point in time. But on the other hand, we need talent. We need talent in government. And I would encourage any woman who is interested in government service to reach out to their networks and their communities and ask how do they think they can make it work?

James Lindsay:

Shelly, you wanted to jump in here?

Shelly O'Neill Stoneman:

Sure. I just thought I'd tell a quick story on that of, to Jamie's point, how we've been through all of it. As an example after, after finally being offered my dream job working at White House Leg Affairs in the brand new Obama administration. So during transition, I just found out that I was expecting our first child. And that had been a long road. So that was something I was really eager to have that next phase of my life start, but suddenly two important moments are happening alongside each other. And my job was going to be the liaison to the House Representative for National Security issues on the White House Leg team. I ended up working on everything from the repeal of don't ask, don't tell, to trying to close Guantanamo, to dealing with every terrorism issue that took place during that time period while initially somewhat pregnant and then later extremely pregnant and then having a newborn.

Shelly O'Neill Stoneman:

It is something that my desire to serve in that role was certainly the most important thing to me. But to anyone who's worried about how to navigate that, I mean, we did figure it out. And so the life lessons from that are that anyone can do anything if the resources are there. I mean, I don't want to neglect that point, that of course the resources and the scaffolding in place for women are important. But it is nothing as insurmountable, especially when you have a group that is so committed to helping you think through how to solve any potential issue.

James Lindsay:

I'm curious on that scaffolding point, Shelly. Have we seen over the years the federal government being more interested in building the appropriate scaffolding so that women can better balance these challenges? Is it becoming more family friendly in that sense?

Shelly O'Neill Stoneman:

It's funny, I'll quote the former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel when he worked for President Barack Obama. His famous line was, "Yeah, it's a family friendly White House. It's friendly to your family, but the rest of us are working around the clock." I think that's true. Although, I mean, there were some really incredible pockets. There's one story that really has not been told publicly, but certainly gives the first lady a ton of credit. When I came back to work, I was working in the east wing, but most of my day job at that time, just given the events of the day in National Security world, I was working almost 12 hours a day in the situation room. And so I was a nursing mom. I'm trying to figure out kind of how to keep that balance and the White House infrastructure was not there.

Shelly O'Neill Stoneman:

And lo and behold on a walk out to the parking lot one night and connecting with someone in the first ladies' office who asked me how it was going, I relayed how challenging it was to try to achieve both objectives. They ended up taking their own personal initiative and setting up a mother's comfort room in the east wing. It took several months, but I mean, it was very much first lady hands on saying, "This is a problem. This is a talented member of our staff. We've got to solve it." And you know what? I actually ended up not being able to benefit from it because of the timeframe, but it was so incredible to me that the next person was not going to have to face that challenge. So I do think the infrastructure is there in pockets and parts, and you have seen even the Pentagon evolve with that over time. But I think there's still more work to be done there without a doubt.

James Lindsay:

Well, having done the stint on the staff of the National Security Council, I am in awe of anyone who works there because the hours can be incredibly long. I can't imagine doing it while being pregnant, having a newborn baby, because as we all know, newborn babies demand a lot of time and effort. So I am in awe to say that. Jamie, you wanted to say something?

Jamie Jones Miller:

I would just add if that formal scaffolding is not preexisting, and to Shelly's point, go build it yourself. That is something I learned day one when I walked into the Pentagon and looked around and said, "Okay, who are the women who are at my level or senior to me that I need to get to know in order to do my job better." And so we established a monthly breakfast open to whoever to come and to crowdsource solutions to problems and to figure out and to say, "You figured out how to do this thing. How can I do this thing that I can't overcome this problem, or figure out how to get this particular question resolved?" And that informal network was really, really important and critical to me as I served at the Pentagon.

James Lindsay:

Shelly?

Shelly O'Neill Stoneman:

Yeah. And if I could just add, we did the exact same thing at the White House within the National Security group. And it's funny. Looking back, I mean, the people in that group for me, the incredible Samantha Power, now, the USAID administrator, who had a child within weeks of me. So she and I were kind of the new moms there together. Mary DeRosa, she was the National Security Council council. She gave me some of the best advice I've ever gotten, which is kind of how to approach this parenting and dealing with National Security roles in chunks and not having to feel like what's next is the question you have to ask yourself. You can cycle in and cycle out. But it was a ton of women who were all there who've all gone on to do incredible things, many of them in roles in this administration. But to Jamie's point, without that network of telling me, "Hey, I've seen this before. You're going to be okay. Here's some things to think about. You've got a village" I don't know that it would've been as smooth for me as it was.

James Lindsay:

Well, I have to ask about that Jamie, because I take your point that people need to speak up. But obviously, many jobs people are afraid to speak up because they worry that it will reflect badly on them, they'll be seen as disruptive or a troublemaker. What advice would you give to people on that score?

Jamie Jones Miller:

When I'm asked a question like this, I think back to myself in how I felt when I first entered a senior National Security role and what my needs and emotions and feelings were at the time. There is a lot of pressure when people are looking at you as the only woman in the room, right? Because you will be judged and your entire class of people will be judged based on how you perform and how you behave. And so there's that added pressure of, "Gosh, if I don't execute, if I don't do this well, it's going to impact every other woman who comes behind me." And so I would say that's just even the added burden that you carry in this particular role.

Jamie Jones Miller:

So what I would say is call us at LCWINS. We are happy to help. We certainly know and have seen just about every type of scenario and can really use our network to help solve problems. A lot of times you may have access to a means to solve your problem, you just don't know it. Talking to a third party can help you navigate that sometimes. So we are here for you. Give us a call if you're working through a challenging problem in the National Security space.

James Lindsay:

Speaking of LCWINS, and let me just plug your website again, lcwins.org, Shelly, you mentioned before LCWINS does webinars. Do you want to tell us a little bit about them?

Shelly O'Neill Stoneman:

Sure. So these webinars, we are the only organization, nonprofit organization that does these for free in order to reduce the barriers for women seeking to serve. We kind of pull down the opacity of the presidential appointment process. We've talked to dozens of expert women who've previously held senior roles. Many, in fact, who've returned to government since they've actually done the webinars with us and are currently serving in senior roles, and about how they've navigated everything from making their interest in the next role known to working with the White House Office of Presidential Personnel agency, White House Liaisons during the appointment process to navigating the paperwork and the Senate confirmation process. We've taken all of their valuable knowledge about balance and work-life, caregiving, navigating a pandemic, and raising their public profile, and even how to rise to the top in the foreign service in Congress and within think tanks. I mean, all of that is content that is free and available.

Shelly O'Neill Stoneman:

But I think the secret sauce is that one of the things we can give women contemplating public service is the do's and don'ts regarding appointments. And this is from our own experience either being appointees, or in my case, kind of working with presidential personnel in order to identify and guide appointees through the process. So we walk them through the critically important vetting process, how to get your records, taxes, legal in order, filling out the security clearance paperwork. We take the scrutiny that publications and social media undergoes through that process during a vet. And finally, we urge them to phone a friend to ask rather than make a mistake that might cost them the opportunity to serve in the future.

James Lindsay:

How would you describe the vetting process for nominees in the US government? Is this a smooth and easy process or something else?

Shelly O'Neill Stoneman:

Lengthy, confusing, complicated, and probably what brings out insecurity and even the most calm centered individuals. I've seen it all. I think that people, you need to go into it with a great amount of patience. If it's, let's say a mid-level role like a non-career SES role, it's going to take you about three to six months. If you're a Senate confirmed individual, it depends on how pressing that particular role is to fill. But that vetting process can truly take beyond that. I mean, it can take three to six to nine months depending on what the issue is.

Shelly O'Neill Stoneman:

But what we tell folks is, if you have your records together and cleaned up and are able to identify even things that might be problematic out there, a past publication or a social media item that might have been inflammatory, all the better that the vetting attorneys can help you think through "Is this workable or is it not?" So it doesn't waste so much time. So I think that the time process is one that really tends to bring people to their knees. But I know Jamie has seen this in person at the Pentagon when she was trying to help get DoD appointees confirmed as well.

James Lindsay:

Jamie tell me this system works smoothly. It's nice. Everybody comes out at the end, thinking this was a wonderful process.

Jamie Jones Miller:

The system is the system, the process is the process, right? The variables are all the players around the table. I think as I would counsel nominees, I have two pieces of advice for them. Number one, you're going to be working with strangers, people that you don't know to help navigate through this process. That is sometimes hard because the process itself and the information, as Shelly mentioned during the vet, it's very invasive. It's a shock to the system when all of a sudden you have a team of strangers whose sole mission in life is to get you confirmed maybe with 51 votes, right? And then you're not really expecting the timeline or the questions that you're going to be asked. And then it is a very, in some cases, it's a long drawn out process, or it's quick and fast. And the next day you're sworn in, you got to do the work. I think that's the second part is. Preparing yourself to go through the process is one thing. And then preparing yourself to serve in the role is also another really important element.

James Lindsay:

I have to say from my vantage point, the whole vetting process and the confirmation process is broken. It just takes too long. It is too invasive. I'm not sure what problems that are being solved by all of this. But I'm just curious. Do you find that the fact that it is long and invasive and difficult process that people who might be good in government service are turning away because they don't want to go through what is a pretty unpleasant process?

Jamie Jones Miller:

The short answer to that question is yes, I think it is a deterrent, but in many cases you don't know until you're in it. And so that's the wall that we're trying to tear down, is let's build some transparency around the process. Give people the playbook right out of the gate so they know how to maneuver. And then provide some support and help to navigate and be that soft landing for someone who is going through the process. That's what I'm really proud of for LCWINS that we've been doing and will continue to do in the future. This is going to sound self-serving, but I would like LCWINS to be around. I hope it's around when I get to the point in time where I want to seek a Senate confirmed position, because I've seen it from one side of the table and I think I know all of the things, but I'm going to need a community of experts who are going to help hold my hand through that process.

James Lindsay:

Shelly, I want to close by soliciting any advice you might want to give to some of the younger people listening to our conversation, men or women, how to think about the workplace, how to think about government service? Any sort of encouragement in terms of overcoming any inhibitions they may have, self imagined obstacles to working in the government workforce?

Shelly O'Neill Stoneman:

Yeah. I think a wonderful outreach to all of these individuals in the sense that I think that the world is changing and people are embracing a more diverse workplace by and large, especially within the National Security community, which is terrific. However, I think going back to the point that you do have to be intentional in order to bring people in and then make sure they actually have a seat at the table and they can be part of those conversations. Just having the seat isn't enough. So that's why it's diversity, equity and inclusion. It's all three legs of the stool to make it work.

Shelly O'Neill Stoneman:

So what I would say for folks who are either entry level or managers who are kind of building out their team is ensuring that in every single case, and we were very intentional about this when I was at the Pentagon and I know this administration is as well, is making sure you always have a diverse slate of candidates for every role. It's really important. And that is how to be intentional about it. The hiring recommendations will be evaluated in part on how they will contribute to the creation of a diverse leadership team. People have to be able to look up and see what they can become. So the hiring manager pulls a diverse slate. They're thinking hard about how to build out the diverse team below them, but they also need to be able to look up.

Shelly O'Neill Stoneman:

And you also have to be... As you're thinking about bringing more women into the workplace and certainly retaining them, that candidates cannot be viewed less favorably if they've had a break in employment or past periods of part-time work due to family responsibilities. That can no longer be something that is held against folks because you're simply going to eliminate talent from the workplace. But I think back to, just intentionality is so important. Think about it as you are ultimately building an organization that's going to reflect the talent of the full team of Americans at your disposal.

James Lindsay:

Jamie, I'm going to give you the last say. Any advice you want to impart on people listening to our conversation?

Jamie Jones Miller:

It's a real honor to serve your country. Getting up every day and knowing that you are taking that, you've taken that oath of office and you have an opportunity to serve a mission that is greater than your own, gosh, that really got me up every day. To be honest, it's something that many people miss when they leave government. And so for anyone who is interested in a government service or a career in National Security, just know that there's not one single defined path. There are many ways that you can get into a career in National Security. There are a lot of people out there who are willing to open the door for you and give you a little bit of a behind the scenes look as you're trying to make that decision.

James Lindsay:

On that very astute and correct point, I'm going to close up The President's Inbox for this week. My guests have been Jamie Jones Miller and Shelly O'Neil Stoneman, co-chairs of the Leadership Council on Women in National Security. Jamie and Shelly, thank you for the important work you are doing. Thank you also for joining me today.

Shelly O'Neill Stoneman:

Thanks so much, Jim.

Jamie Jones Miller:

Thanks, Jim.

James Lindsay:

Please subscribe to The President's Inbox in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, wherever you listen. And leave us a review, they help us get notice and improve the show. You can find the books and articles mentioned in this episode as well as a transcript of our conversation on the podcast page for The President's Inbox on cfr.org. As always, the opinions expressed in The President's Inbox are solely those of the hosts, our guests, not of CFR, which takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. Today's episode was produced by Zoe Collis with senior podcast producer, Gabrielle Sierra. Zoe did double duty as our recording engineer. Thank you as always, Zoe. Special thanks to Margaret Gach for her assistance. This is Jim Lindsay. Thanks for listening.

 

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