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DEIA in Action: Mitigating Gender Bias in Evaluations and Hiring

March 17, 2022

Program Description:

This panel, moderated by Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, will discuss concrete ways to mitigate gender bias in evaluations and hiring. Lisa Vickers will present an overview of GTM best practices in mitigating gender bias in both areas. Sara Feuerstein will discuss how to identify and address gender-coded language in evaluations and awards and Arati Shroff will offer perspectives on how to put these practices into action based her experiences overseas.  Keisha Toms-Boutaleb will present a case study of how gender-blind, structured interviews produced a more inclusive applicant pool and ultimately Embassy Lesotho’s first woman foreign service national investigator.


Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, U.S. Department of State

Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, a 30-year diplomat, is the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer for the Department of State and was the longest serving U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Malta. Through a series of senior positions that included advising the Commander of U.S. cyber forces on our foreign policy priorities, expanding our counterterrorism partners and programs as Deputy Coordinator for Counterterrorism, and Coordinating the largest evacuation of American citizens from a war zone since WWII, her professional life has played out almost daily in international media.

She began her formal work in teaching and leadership development as Chairwoman for Middle East Area Studies at the prestigious Foreign Service Institute where U.S. diplomats are trained. Earlier in her career, she served in Baghdad, Jakarta, and Cairo before taking on the position of Special Assistant to the Secretary of State for the Middle East and Africa. Her Middle East assignments include election monitoring in the Gaza Strip and an extraordinary assignment where she actively supported gender equality in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as the first woman to lead a diplomatic mission there. In addition to the State Department, she has held senior positions at the Defense Department and at the National Security Council. Prior to that, she was a fellow on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the then Ranking Member, Senator Joseph Biden. Ms. Abercrombie-Winstanley is the recipient of the Maltese Order of Merit, Department of State Meritorious and Superior Honor Awards, including “For acts of courage during an attack on the U.S. Consulate General, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on December 6, 2004 by al-Qa’ida terrorists.”

Over the years, Ms. Abercrombie-Winstanley has been a keynote speaker for a variety of organizations including IESAbroad, The Cleveland City Club, TrueBlue Inclusion, Harvard University, The University of Denver, The University of Malta, and Johns Hopkins University. She is an in-demand panelist and moderator at some of the most respected international think tanks including The German Marshall Fund, CSIS, The Brookings Institution, The World Affairs Council, and The Council on Foreign Relations on issues ranging from U.S. Mid-East Policy, how diversity and inclusion improve U.S. foreign policy making, cyber security challenges, and counterterrorism. She is a strong proponent of excellence through inclusion across organizations and strives to break down barriers to the full participation of women and minorities. She was Ambassador-in-Residence at Oberlin College for 2020 and served as the Co-Chair of the Diversity in National Security working group for the Biden-Harris campaign.

Ms. Abercrombie-Winstanley, a Cleveland native, has degrees from The George Washington University and The Johns Hopkins University and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She has been an active Board member on several organizations committed to excellence in educating and leadership development including the Forum for Education Abroad, College Now Greater Cleveland, and the International Career Advancement Association. She also served on the boards of the Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art and the Middle East Policy Council. She sings with the Washington Performing Arts Society and has been published in the New York Times Opinion and The Foreign Service Journal. She is the co-author of two papers published in the New York Review of Science Fiction on “Diplomacy in Star Trek” and “The Representation of Disability in Star Trek.” In 2019, she was voted into the American Academy of Diplomacy.


Keisha Toms-Boutaleb, Deputy Chief of Mission at U.S. Embassy Maseru in Lesotho.

Keisha Toms-Boutaleb currently serves as the Deputy Chief of Mission at U.S. Embassy Maseru in Lesotho. Ms. Toms-Boutaleb joined the U.S. Department of State in 2008 as a Pickering Fellow and has served in Pakistan, Kuwait, Algeria, Washington, and Qatar.  She is a recipient of the Department of State Superior and Meritorious honor awards. Prior to joining the Department, Ms. Toms-Boutaleb lived in Yemen as a Fulbright Student Scholar and in Egypt as an Institute for International Public Policy Fellow.  She interned at the Iraq Desk in the Department and at U.S. Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa.  She holds a master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of International Public Affairs, with a focus on International Security Policy and an undergraduate degree from City University of New York with a focus on Cross Cultural Studies.  Ms. Toms-Boutaleb speaks Arabic and enjoys Spanish and French.







Lisa Vickers, Director of the Bureau of Global Talent Management’s Office of Performance Evaluation

Lisa Vickers, a member of the Senior Foreign Service with the rank of Minister-Counselor,
serves as the Director of the Bureau of Global Talent Management’s Office of Performance

Ms. Vickers most recently served as the Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs in Cairo, Egypt
from August 2017-20. Previously, she has served as the Deputy Principal Officer at the U.S.
Consulate General in Frankfurt, Germany from 2014-2017; Deputy Chief of Mission in
Lilongwe, Malawi; as State Department Fellow at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy,
Tufts University; Consul General, U.S. Consulate General in Edinburgh, Scotland; Principal
Officer at the U.S. Consulate in Merida, Mexico and as Consul General, US Embassy Kyiv,
Ukraine.  Other postings include assignments at the U.S. Embassies in Warsaw, Poland;
Helsinki, Finland; Suva, Fiji; and, Mexico City, Mexico. She has been awarded several Superior
and Meritorious Honor Awards.
Ms. Vickers, a native of California, joined the Foreign Service in 1990. She received a Bachelor
of Arts degree in International Studies from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California
in 1986, and studied at Durham University in the United Kingdom. She speaks Spanish and
German, and has studied Polish and Finnish. She is married to Adrian Wilkes.


Sara Feuerstein, Line Officer in the Executive Secretariat

Sara Feuerstein is currently a Line Officer in the Executive Secretariat, reviewing briefing papers for Department principals and planning the Secretary’s visits abroad.  Prior to joining the Foreign Service, she worked at the White House from 2010-2015 as a special assistant coordinating administration-wide disability policy and later serving as the West Wing Receptionist.  Sara obtained her Bachelors degree at Hamilton College and Masters at the University of Toulouse, France.







Arati Shroff, Deputy Chief, Economic Section American Institute in Taiwan

Arati Shroff is a career diplomat and currently serves as the Deputy Economic Chief at the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) in Taipei, where she leads and manages a dynamic team to expand U.S.-Taiwan economic cooperation. Arati received the Herbert Salzman Award for Excellence in International Economic Performance for her pivotal role in elevating the U.S.-Taiwan economic relationship to the highest point in over forty years and for conceiving and executing a supply chain security strategy that bridges multiple U.S. administrations. Prior to this assignment, she advised the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command on the implications of China taking on a leadership role in key high tech sectors. In her previous role, Arati advanced U.S. policy at U.S. Consulate Shanghai during China’s host year of the G-20. She also served in the State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asia and in U.S. Embassy Kuwait. Arati began her Foreign Service career as an intern at U.S. Embassy Beijing during China’s accession to the World Trade Organization.

Arati serves as an advocate for international women’s empowerment and has been an advisor and board member of various U.S. and international organizations focused on women’s professional development. She currently leads AIT’s Federal Women’s Program and was commended as the runner-up for the Swanee Hunt Award for Advancing Women’s Role in Policy Formulation. Arati previously served on the executive board of the Asian American Foreign Affairs Association. Originally from the state of Illinois, Arati earned a B.A. from the Johns Hopkins University and a M.A. from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Arati speaks Chinese, Arabic, and Hindi and enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband and two kids. 

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