Secretary of State Blinken Appoints New Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer

by State Brief


The Department of State is getting a new chief of diversity and inclusion after ten months of vacancy.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that he has tapped Zakiya Carr Johnson to become the second person to ever hold the role.

American diplomacy can only succeed if it fully harnesses all of the talent that our nation has to offer,” Blinken said in a statement on April 2. “That is why I created the position of CDIO to elevate DEIA within our organization and give it the dedicated senior-level attention that it deserves. Over the past three years, the Department of State has made significant progress on this front but there remains work to be done. We will continue to pursue this mission aggressively, because recruiting, nurturing, and promoting the most capable workforce possible is critical to our national security.”

NBC News described Carr Johnson as “an experienced race, social inclusion and diversity expert.” The outlet said she worked for the State Department from 2010 to 2017 “before going on to start several organizations that work with historically marginalized communities.”

Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley was the department’s first standalone chief diversity and inclusion officer ever. The former ambassador to Malta was appointed by Blinken in April of 2021.

Diversity and inclusion make our diplomatic team stronger, smarter, more creative, more innovative,” Blinken said at the time. “Because we’re operating in a diverse world, and America’s diversity is a source of strength that few countries can match, when we fail to build a team that reflects America, it’s like we’re engaging the world with one arm tied behind our back.”

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

Abercrombie-Winstanley had worked in foreign services for more than 30 years and had worked under both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama prior to her time with the Biden administration. She announced in June of 2023 that she would leave her position.

Conny Mayer served as acting CDIO before a permanent replacement was appointed.

HuffPost reported that Abercrombie-Winstanley departed “with big promises still unfulfilled.

Some 44% of State Department personnel have experienced discrimination, harassment or bullying while on the job, according to an unpublished survey of employees conducted last year,” the outlet wrote. “Most people in that group said they did not report the issue due to fear of retaliation or because they did not think there would be any consequences.”



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