When Rose Gottemoeller began negotiating the new nuclear treaty with Moscow, the US diplomat got questions on the usual topics: missile defense, warheads, inspections.
And then there was this one from the Russian generals: “How come you’ve got so many women?”
To the Russians’ astonishment, an array of American women faced them across the negotiating table. Gottemoeller led the American team during the negotiations, which concluded in March. Her deputy was Marcie Ries, another diplomat. The top two US scientists were female. And helping to close the deal on the New START agreement was Ellen O. Tauscher, a State Department undersecretary and former congresswoman.
The US delegation reflected a little-noticed shift in the tough-guy world of national security. Twenty-five years after White House aide Donald Regan famously opined that women were “not going to understand throw-weights,” American females clearly get nuclear policy.
They also run it. Or a lot of it, anyway.
“From me to the secretary, it’s all female,” said Look, a senior verification official whose chain of command extends up to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The nuclear experts are indicative of an expanding cast of top female national security officials.
Women occupy between 21 and 29 percent of the senior positions at the State Department, USAID, the Pentagon and other national security and foreign policy agencies, according to a recent survey by Women in International Security, a professional group.
About 13 percent of the Senior Intelligence Service is female, it found.
“We’re really at a very critical juncture in the field at large. We’ve had many more women than we’ve ever seen,” said Jolynn Shoemaker, executive director of the group. “It’s particularly visible in this administration.”
( In Exclusive Partnership with The Washington Post. For more, visit www.washingtonpost.com )