Every month I receive hundreds of emails, tweets, DMs, Slack messages, and social media comments from people with questions. Seriously, ask my chief of staff, Stephanie. As the founder of #NatSecGirlSquad it’s an enormous privilege to be a trusted resource for members of our community navigating professional opportunities, personal developments, and everything in between.
The questions range from how to best format or submit a resume, how to handle a tricky situation at work, what to pack for your first international conference, key buzzwords for Bumble profiles when you work “across the river,” and so much more. There’s never a dull moment. And I realize, after a few years of running a business and community engaging with more than 25,000 people a month, at the core, many of the questions are the same.
In a city and field where we seem to be so worried about making it clear we know what we’re doing, wouldn’t it be great if we could all get off our high horses and realize we are merely humans working to save the world? So, this column is my contribution to that aim – saving the world and realizing we are all just trying to find our way in the process.
Our first inquiry comes from Heather via email. Heather writes:
“How do you deal when people refuse to recognize diversity matters in national security?”
Ah! The quintessential #NatSecGirlSquad question!
There are a number of ways to effectively handle this one. But first, ask if it’s worth it.
By that I mean:
- Is this an internet troll or is this person an ally in the fight against PMS (pale, male, stale) who just doesn’t know it yet?
- Do you have the time and energy for this conversation, or do you have other more important things to do?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, your obligation is quite limited. But, for the sake of brevity, let’s say you’ve determined this person is a soon-to-be-convert and you’ve got the time to do this work. Here are my favorite places to start:
- Acknowledge that they are engaging, and that you have some common ground: you both love America, and you both feel strongly on the topic. Believe me, it helps.
- Reject the premise. Refuse that an argument needs to be made in favor of diversity, and place the burden of proof on them. “Show me the data proving homogenous groups make better decisions than diverse ones.”
- Also, reject the idea that non-PMS people are requesting or requiring something special or additional. Instead, question why we’re taught to assume the current “default” is inherently correct.
Need an example? The bars used for leg tucks on the new Army Combat Fitness Test are standardized to a man’s grip width. So are the grips on nearly all government-issued service weapons. Women’s hands are, on average, more narrow than men’s. Any power-lifter or crossfit-attempter can attest to the pain of increasing grip strength. Now, imagine your job depends on your ability to hold and shoot a thing that that is LITERALLY TOO BIG FOR YOUR HAND unless you purchase a modified grip, which risks a whole lot of social blowback.
But really, for me, it’s about articulating that competent diversity is a national security imperative. The threats and opportunities are too great to not have the most resilient and capable teams focused on how to move forward. Further, if we expect America to succeed in addressing the shortfalls of the current status quo, I can see no logic in assigning leadership and responsibility primarily to those who built and are most comfortable in the current system.
If all else fails, send them to natsecgirlsquad.com or to my inbox – firstname.lastname@example.org. I have no problem reminding them if you are soft on diversity, you are soft on defense. If you don’t care about this issue, you don’t care about America.