Regardless, the near-term implications are pretty straightforward: In many arenas, the average woman seems to outperform the average man, and diverse groups that include both men and women outperform homogeneous groups made up solely of men. If this is true in education, development, investing, and conflict prevention, it's a pretty good bet that it's also true in the national security and foreign-policy domains.
And guys? I'm just not sure you're, well, hormonally suited for leadership positions. Sure, women have "that time of the month" -- but recent medical research suggests that men experience wilder hormonal fluctuations every day than women do every month. Can we really afford to have our nation protected by those who experience constant hormonally induced mood swings?
OK, kidding! I'm sure a little mediation training and maybe some hormone therapy can help keep you fellas stable.
Even if you're not persuaded by the research suggesting that women and gender-diverse groups may make better decisions than men and exclusively male groups, there's still the basic fact that half the population is female. When it comes to an area as vital as national security, shouldn't we want to draw on the talents of the whole population, not just half of it? These days, women make up the majority of college graduates and the majority of Ph.D. and professional-school students, but men still outnumber women in national security-related jobs by about 3 to 1, a ratio that goes up and up as we look at more senior levels.
And the existence of high-level role models and mentors makes a difference. Senior men may be more comfortable mentoring (and promoting) colleagues who look like younger versions of themselves, leaving younger women struggling to find mentors willing to lend a hand. Increasing the number of senior women can not only inspire younger women to believe that they too can achieve similar success, but can provide them with concrete assistance as they seek to move up themselves. But putting together an all-male national security team is the equivalent of hanging a sign on the clubhouse door: Girls keep out!
The presence (or absence) of senior women in America's foreign-policy leadership sends a message abroad, as well as at home. In Afghanistan and the Middle East in particular, the United States is spending billions -- for all the reasons noted above -- trying to protect women from violence and discrimination, increase girls' access to education, and increase female participation in traditionally male-dominated fields such as law, business, government, the police, and the military. When women are visible and vital parts of our own leadership teams, we show our Afghan or Saudi or Pakistani partners that we practice what we preach -- and this has concrete benefits for our ability to achieve our foreign-policy and national security goals.
None of this is rocket science, and here, as in other domains, strong leadership from the very top makes all the difference.
That would be you, Mr. President.
So here's a thought: It's not too late to increase the gender diversity on your national security team. How about appointing Susan Rice or Michèle Flournoy to replace Tom Donilon as national security advisor?