Conclusively shattering the claim that there aren’t enough qualified women to fill key national security roles, this week the Leadership Council for Women in National Security (LCWINS) delivered to the Biden-Harris and Trump-Pence 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 the next Administration. These roles include some 200 Senate-confirmed Presidentially-appointed national security positions.
LCWINS launched in June 2019. This group of nearly 100 bipartisan national security professionals is dedicated to ensuring that women, in all their diversity, have equal space at the policy-making table . Because we know, and study after study shows, that including women at the top produces better outcomes.
The lists LCWINS provided are made up of talented, experienced women from across the United States who were nominated by former senior government officials, professional colleagues, and others. The women on these lists collectively have 15,000 years of career experience and have represented America in nearly every country in the world. Thirty-seven percent of the women in the LCWINS lists are women of color, including 14% who are Black. Women who identify as LGBTQ make up five percent of those included.
To build the lists, LCWINS cast a wide net, reaching out across the country to ensure government, academia, think tanks, nonprofits, and the private sector were all represented. Women on the lists indicated whether they were interested in serving in the Trump Administration, a potential Biden Administration, or both.
While delivering these databases is a key strategic priority for LCWINS, the organization’s work doesn’t end here. LCWINS will continue to offer to collaborate with both political teams, and after the election outcome is known, LCWINS will track gender diversity in senior appointments to hold the next Administration accountable on inclusion.
Drawing on diversity and inclusion experts, including presidential personnel alumni and veterans of the Senate confirmation process, LCWINS also provided the Trump and Biden teams recommendations for processes to help ensure gender parity and diverse outcomes in hiring. The group is also holding a series of webinars to help prepare candidates to navigate the political appointment process, featuring women leaders who have done it successfully in previous Administrations of both parties.
All of this work builds on LCWINS’s 5050in2020 Initiative, which began in 2019, when the organization launched a pledge for presidential candidates to sign, committing them to strive for gender parity in senior national security roles should they win. The pledge was signed by 18 candidates, including Joe Biden. It encouraged the next President to strive for gender parity in their national security nominations, nominate women to senior positions in national security that have never been filled by women before, and to ensure that women of color are well represented in senior ranks.
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LCWINS Executive Director Lindsay Rodman, as well as other LCWINS Executive and Steering Committee members, may be available for interviews.
In 2020, LCWINS compiled a database of over 900 women who are well-qualified and ready to serve in Senate-confirmed national security leadership positions. The Biden-Harris Transition, and ultimately the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, received the names and biographical data for 927 women who specified they would be honored to serve in President Biden's Administration.
To gauge our progress in achieving our goal of gender parity in national security leadership, take a look at the LCWINS Tracker!
In 2021, we will be expanding our database initiative to include even more women for even more opportunities! Please sign up to get involved and we'll keep you updated on our progress toward Database 2.0!
Beginning in the spring of 2020, LCWINS researched and reached out to over 50 organizations, and 50 individuals we thought could help us find qualified candidates, to explain our work and ask them to begin compiling lists of women who were well-qualified for national security appointments to Senate-confirmed positions. During these conversations, we stressed the seniority associated with these positions and our emphasis on diversity. We also asked our Leadership Council and Honorary Advisory Committee to reach out through their networks and contacts. In addition, we researched top women in national security and foreign policy and nominated them ourselves for inclusion in the database.
It was important to LCWINS that we reach beyond “the usual suspects” in the Beltway, and find partners across the country. We had over 1500 women nominated throughout this process, including candidates from government, academia, think tanks, nonprofits, and the private sector.
Inviting Women into the Database
Invitations to join our database were sent out to nominees via email explaining the initiative and including a link to a Google Form. We employed multiple outreach methods to make sure candidates didn’t miss our request because of a technology issue, including direct individual encouragement via email, as well as MailChimp, YAMM Mail Merge via Gmail, and LinkedIn.
Defining the Scope of the List
By cross-referencing the 2016 Plum Book and a 2017 Congressional Research Service report on Presidential Appointments, we put together a list of Senate-confirmed positions across the federal government. Using our expertise and some discretion, we narrowed this list down to 190 national security-related civilian political appointments. Military appointments were not included for a variety of reasons. We then organized these positions into clusters, and each woman was asked to choose up to 3 clusters that matched her experience, expertise and interest.
We asked the women in our database about ambassadorships, as well. While all 224 U.S. ambassadorships are technically all Presidentially-appointed and Senate-confirmed, the large majority of ambassadorships have historically been held by career Foreign Service Officers. LCWINS does not take a position on how many ambassadors should be sourced through external political appointments.
We also chose to draw specific attention to non-Senate-confirmed positions such as Presidential Personnel, Chiefs of Staff, and White House liaisons by asking each woman about these roles. While some of these appointments are not as senior as the roles reserved for this list, it is imperative that the teams making decisions about who is politically appointed are diverse as well.
Confidentiality and Security
As a national security-minded organization, we believe our lists could be of value to our adversaries, and therefore we have taken significant precautions to ensure the security of this information. There is limited access to the database within the LCWINS staff and we consulted with senior members of Google’s security team throughout to ensure our process was as secure as possible. The relevant portions of the database were conveyed to the Biden-Harris and Trump-Pence teams through secure means (each woman indicated whether she wanted her name forwarded to Biden-Harris, Trump-Pence or both). The lists will not be released to anyone else. An addendum to the Biden-Harris list was forwarded in November after the election results.