Former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright Speaks at CIA in Honor of Women's History Month
On March 19, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employees warmly welcomed former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright to the Headquarters auditorium where she shared her experiences and thoughts on leadership. CIA Director John O. Brennan took to the stage to introduce Dr. Albright, thanking her for her service to the country and for her leading role in helping the Agency craft a . Remarking on women in the workplace, CIA Director Brennan said, “During my three decades in government—including 25 years here at CIA—I’ve seen firsthand the knowledge, leadership, courage, and dedication that women bring to the table in meeting the most difficult missions, including the intelligence mission.”
Dr. Albright described her career as being punctuated with many of the same work-life balance questions that remain unanswered today. “But looking back on my career, you might detect a lot of juggling, which all people who work—and especially women—have to do. And as my career progressed, I had my share of setbacks and inner doubts…. I was also determined to succeed and felt after a while that I had truly found my voice and that some people, at least, were listening to it.” She urged all Agency officers to take advantage of whatever opportunity is put before them. “You have to decide whether to allow others to define the boundaries of your life—or to chart your own course even if you’re not entirely sure where you’re going. No one can make that choice for you—and no path is inherently right or wrong.”
Dr. Albright, who was a member of former DCIA David H. Petraeus’s External Advisory Board, also discussed her experience working with the Agency’s leadership to help CIA continue the advancement of women in the workplace. In April 2012, then-DCIA Petraeus asked Dr. Albright to lead a team (the Director’s Advisory Group on Women in Leadership) of senior Agency officers and other external advisers to take a fresh look at ways to improve career progression for women at CIA.
The team reviewed the organizational and societal factors affecting women’s careers and analyzed survey, interview, and focus group data provided by nearly half the workforce to identify critical findings. Dr. Albright and the team assessed that the Agency should continue to adapt CIA personnel systems to ensure assignments meet the needs of the organization while providing employees the opportunities to gain critical experiences, increasing emphasis on diverse paths to the senior ranks, and developing long-term plans to introduce more flexibility into workforce planning and execution.
“I was intrigued when, last spring, former Director Petraeus invited me to participate in the Director’s Advisory Group on Women in Leadership,” said Dr. Albright. In her remarks she thanked employees for providing their thoughts and contributing to the effort. “I hope that the report will be received in the same spirit with which it is offered, and that its implementation will benefit both the Agency and its vital mission,” she added.
DCIA Brennan endorsed the findings and recommendations of the group, which he and Dr. Albright believe will benefit the entire workforce. He urged the Agency’s leaders and employees to take part in implementing necessary changes and ensuring the recommendations become part of the Agency’s culture and strengthen personnel management practices. “What Secretary Albright and the other senior advisers, such as Michele Flournoy, Justin Jackson, John McLaughlin, Mike Mullen, Fran Townsend, and the DAG members came up with isn’t a generic re-telling of where the Agency is, or just another study to put on the shelf. It goes beyond numbers and statistics to address some very important aspects of our Agency’s culture.”
CIA has made real, measurable strides on this important issue. Women make up 46 percent of CIA’s workforce, up from 38 percent in 1980. Female representation at the GS-13 to GS-15 levels has increased from nine percent to 44 percent over that same period of time. The Agency is proud of this progress—the CIA compares well against its Intelligence Community counterparts and private industry—but is committed to improving its ability to ensure everyone’s talents are used fully to achieve the mission. “And perhaps the most important point I want to make here is that the recommendations will benefit not just women of our workforce, but the entire workforce,” DCIA Brennan said. “These recommendations are about developing and managing all of our people in a way that optimizes talent.”