US State Department names Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley as first chief diversity officer

Blinken called the lack of diversity in the agency 'systemic' and 'alarming'

Former ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley smiles after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that she would be the  first chief diversity officer in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the State Department in Washington, DC on April 12, 2021.  / AFP / POOL / MANDEL NGAN
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday named Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley as the State Department's first chief diversity officer, a position created to make the US diplomatic corps more representative.

The appointment is part of the Biden administration's efforts to put diversity, equity and racial justice at the top of the national agenda after nationwide protests against police brutality and racial bias last year.

Introducing Ms Abercrombie-Winstanley, Mr Blinken said the department and the country were at a "moment of reckoning" on racial equality, referring to the Black Lives Matter movement and attacks against Asian Americans.

Ms Abercrombie-Winstanley, a career diplomat since 1985 who served as US ambassador to Malta, will report directly to Mr Blinken, he said.

Promoting diversity inclusion is the job of every department official, but the new officer would hold department leadership accountable on that score, Mr Blinken said.

The lack of diversity at the highest levels of the department was "alarming", he added, but could be traced through its history and seen in the portraits of former secretaries that line the corridor to his office.

"It's hard not to notice that almost every one of the secretaries along the hallway is a white man," Mr Blinken said.

With 76,000 employees globally, racial and ethnic minorities are underrepresented at the department, particularly in senior ranks, according to an independent federal watchdog report released last year.

Ms Abercrombie-Winstanley is black.

"The truth is this problem is as old as the department itself. It's systemic," Mr Blinken said. "It goes deeper than any one institution or any one administration, and it's perpetuated by policies, practices and people to this day."