NPR

Women In National Security Push To Move Beyond 'The First' And 'The Only'

For years, women have fought for inclusion in the high-stakes world of national security. Now, they say, the effort to build a pipeline of qualified women leaders is paying off.
Maggie Feldman-Piltch, left, founder of #NatSecGirlSquad, and Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in 2017 at the Aspen Security Forum, in Aspen, Colo. Source: Photo courtesy Maggie Feldman-Piltch

In her 30 years as a U.S. diplomat, Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley served as ambassador to Malta, monitored elections in Gaza, led a diplomatic mission in Saudi Arabia, expanded counterterrorism partnerships and oversaw a mass evacuation of Americans from a war zone.

But no matter how many postings she racked up, Abercrombie-Winstanley said, she often saw shock spread across the faces of men when she walked into rooms for high-level meetings.

"Sometimes it's as obvious as a head jerk," she said. "There would be a physical reaction of skepticism."

That's because Abercombie-Winstanley is a woman – a black woman – in the male-dominated world of national security. She's part of a cohort of women in defense and diplomacy that began meeting a couple years ago to commiserate about being overlooked and

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