The lack of diversity in the national security world – and the media

by Fatima Bhojani

One thing that strikes me relentlessly about reporting on national security issues is how I’m often one of the few women, and the only person of color, in the room. And I don’t mean just the newsroom, but all rooms—conference rooms, meeting rooms, panel discussions, source meetings.

Even in my reporting, while I make a conscious effort to include the voices of women and people of color in my stories, I often find myself on the phone with a senior U.S. official who also happens to be a white man. When I attend panels, I rarely see women and men of color represented, even though national security overwhelmingly affects people of color.

Last summer, when I attended the annual Aspen Security Forum, an event sponsored by the Aspen Institute’s Homeland Security Program to discuss national and homeland security, I was painfully and constantly aware that I was one of the five or six women of color among the more than 400 attendees — overwhelmingly white men in their 40s, 50s and 60s.

As a young woman of color I have often sought out role models and mentors who look like me. And while a few accomplished women of color inspire me to no end, it makes me sad that most of my role models and mentors are white men.

I have sometimes heard editors say that they recognize the acute lack of diversity in media. But my questions to them are: As a person in a position of power, what are you doing about it? What specific steps have you taken? What is the measurable outcome of your steps? What other steps are you planning to take in the future? Why has it taken you so long to take these steps? How are you supporting your existing employees of color?

A recognition of the homogenous nature of your white, middle-aged, male, heterosexual newsroom is not enough. I want to see action. I want to see you employ a young, non-heterosexual woman of color.

I wish we could have these difficult conversations with those who wield hiring power.

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