Rosa Brooks, who has served in the United States Department of Defense and written for the prestigious journal Foreign Affairs, currently teaches military and humanitarian law at Georgetown University. She is also a regular contributor to the podcast “Deep State Radio.” On a recent podcast (June 25, 2019) she was invited by David Rothkopf to recount a story based on her own experience that illustrates the barriers encountered by women working in the national security sector. This is a paraphrased version of the story she told:

She was in a meeting with the male host of a television program dedicated to national security issues. With her at the table was a woman who had served in a senior position in the State Department and another woman with similarly serious credentials from her time spent in the Pentagon. Brooks herself, with degrees from Harvard and Oxford, is hardly underqualified. 

The discussion turned to the question of gender parity. “Why,” Brooks asked the host, “don’t you have more women on the program? Your show is dominated by men.”

“I would like to,” he said. “I really would. But the problem, you see, is that our viewers expect me to have guests with expertise.”

He said this, without a hint of irony or embarrassment, to three women with undoubted expertise.

“I think he was sincere,” said Brooks. The problem is that so many people – especially, perhaps, white men of a certain age – have an internalized image of what authority and expertise looks like. It looks like them. 

The problem is not insuperable, she said, but it needs to be addressed.

Of note: Another initiative in which Rosa Brooks is involved is the Leadership Council for Women in National Security (LCWINS). See lcwins.org

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