Kathleen Doherty, former U.S. Ambassador and current Chief Strategy and Retreats Officer at Sunnylands, was recently interviewed by Katherine Maxwell, a graduate student studying public administration and international relations at Syracuse University for the Sunnylands 3 by 3 series.

They discussed biases women in leadership roles experience in the diplomatic sector, and how women often adjust to accommodate those situations.

The program focuses on women in different professions. The subject of each interview is allowed to select the person who will interview her, and she will be able to frame the six questions she will be asked.

There’s only one caveat:

Three of those questions must be ones that the subject has been asked before and finds them to be irrelevant. The remaining three questions must be ones the subject is rarely or are never asked, but believes they really should be.

Watch the interview

Listen to a broadcast from the FEDtalk podcast of the Federal News Network from April 9, 2021, in which Office of Management and Budget Associate Director of Performance and Personnel Management Pam Coleman provides an introductory keynote address on the Biden Administration’s effort to strengthen human capital management in the federal government and revitalize the career federal workforce.

Following Coleman’s address, host Jason Briefel sits down with Loren DeJonge Schulman, Vice President of Research and Evaluation at the Partnership for Public Service and Terry Gerton, President and CEO of the National Academy of Public Administration.

The group discusses NAPA’s recent report on the Office of Personnel Management and the Partnership’s recent report on Transforming Human Resource in the federal sector. Through the lenses of these reports, the group discusses ways for agencies and Congress to elevate the importance of human capital to ensure the strength and efficiency of the federal workforce.

Listen now

The Robertson Foundation for Government (RFG) denounces the increasing violence, harassment and discrimination against Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and others who affiliate as part of Asian cultural groups. We acknowledge the unjust and tragic attacks against Asian Americans and express our unwavering support to our fellows, colleagues and partners who feel most deeply and personally the pain of these actions, as well as to the broader AAPI communities across the nation and internationally.

With a mission to support the United States Government to defend and extend freedom throughout the world, we reiterate that democracy and freedom cannot flourish when the human rights, civil liberties and livelihoods of any group of people are threatened, abused or curtailed. The foundation vigorously condemns all acts as well as systemic policies and practices that oppress, incite anxiety and fear, erect barriers to equal opportunity, and generate inequities.

The foundation affirms again its view that racism, discrimination and racial violence are unacceptable in any place and in any form in a nation that espouses the right to life and liberty for all. Aggression toward AAPI communities must be actively combatted. It highlights historic and pervasive prejudice and racism in the United States that must be dismantled.

The foundation remains dedicated to cultivating and supporting public service leaders who act with integrity to develop and implement policies, programs and practices that enhance the ability of the federal government to ensure freedom, security and opportunity for people of color. RFG believes in addressing challenges with a constant lens on the value and critical importance of justice, diversity, equity and inclusion for the health and strength of our nation and the world.

The Robertson Foundation Board of Directors
April 1, 2021

The following article was authored by Mikayla Hyman and published by RFG Partner, the Partnership for Public Service

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, only 3% of federal employees worked remotely. However, 59% worked remotely at the peak of the pandemic—an unprecedented shift.  As COVID-19 cases continue to drop and vaccines become increasingly available, federal agencies must develop plans to reopen in an inclusive and equitable way. Even as offices reopen after the pandemic, the Office of Personnel Management has said that it expects hybrid work environments and remote work to stay.

An equitable and inclusive reopening strategy ensures that all workers can succeed in this new type of workplace.  A culture of belonging must be established for all employees and barriers to success must be dismantled. For example, an equitable and inclusive workplace supports employee mental health and provides accommodations for those who may not be able to work onsite due to child and family care responsibilities.

Employers and employees can benefit from working remotely. Some research shows that remote work is associated with reduced absenteeism, higher employee retention and improved worker performance. Increased work flexibility can also decrease stress—an especially important benefit give the general decline in employees’ mental health due to the pandemic.

Additionally, people who may face violence or harassment, such as transgender individuals, can benefit from remote work. The lack of a commute and the ability to personalize office space can also benefit people with disabilities or those responsible for child care, family care and other forms of unpaid household labor. Finally, remote work enables employers to recruit better, more diverse talent from around the world and broaden their applicant pools.

Despite these benefits, however, remote and hybrid workers often are associated with negative stereotypes like laziness and remote workers are more likely to have lower performance evaluations and decreased pay. Remote work can both cause and reaffirm workplace inequities. For example, studies show that women who work remotely or in a hybrid environment tend to receive lower performance evaluations than men who also telework. A recent New York Times article similarly argues that people of color who work remotely are less likely to advance professionally than their white counterparts who work from home.

To successfully create an effective, inclusive and equitable remote or hybrid workplace after the pandemic, federal agencies should consider the following strategies when reopening:

Allow hybrid and remote work: Remote and hybrid work may be helpful for certain workers. For example, parents may be entitled by law to have remote work flexibility when their children’s schools reopen. Team leaders and agency heads should make hybrid and remote work possible, and employees should honestly evaluate and communicate what kind of work environment suits them best.

Model hybrid and remote work schemes: When high-level workers openly speak about their own flexible work schedules, they normalize hybrid work and offset negative stereotypes about remote work by showing that leaders and other top staff also work remotely. To further normalize hybrid work, employees should openly discuss their flexible work schedules with colleagues, and provide tips and support to others interested in telework.

Out of sight does not mean out of mind: Team leaders and employees need to make sure that everyone is at important meetings and able to take advantage of professional and team building opportunities—even if they work remotely. Leaders should clearly communicate when planning and brainstorming meetings will happen and set weekly meeting times that work for everyone.

Equip supervisors to manage effectively: Supervisors need to confront biases around remote work and learn best practices for communicating with and appreciating the work of employees they don’t see regularly. Managers can establish daily check-ins, set communication expectations, encourage employees to create new processes, and provide emotional support. Employees can manage up by improving their self-advocacy skills, informing supervisors about work successes and maintaining open lines of communication.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed the landscape of remote work and federal agencies must adapt accordingly. The Partnership for Public Service has additional recommendations for effective government management in a post-pandemic world. With these four tips, federal employees at all levels will help their agencies reopen after the pandemic in an equitable and inclusive way.

Read more from the Partnership for Public Service

Editor’s note: RFG Advisor Paula Dobriansky and colleagues recently published an opinion piece on The Hill about the positive benefits of exchanges, which facilitate direct engagement with counterparts in the academic, governmental, business and cultural fields and are effective in promoting economic values of private enterprise and free markets.

As former Secretary of Defense James Mattis asserted, “If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition.”

His insight is reflected in recommendations we recently made to the State Department and U.S. Congress. We were asked by the Congress and the State Department to examine whether federally funded educational and cultural exchanges advance the foreign policy objectives of the United States. As part of our effort, we conducted over 125 interviews comprised of U.S. ambassadors and staff in embassies in more than 20 countries, as well as with exchange participants and alumni, current and former State Department leadership, officials from non-governmental organizations, Capitol Hill and other stakeholders.

After extensive research and interviews we found overwhelming evidence that people-to-people exchanges are highly successful and produce a tremendous return on investment. We believe that exchange programs are one of America’s most effective soft power tools when integrated into U.S. foreign policy strategy and planning.

Exchanges promote the best of American values. They build U.S. influence and help spread democratic ideals around the globe, strengthen economic and trade interests and provide a unique window into what makes the United States a singularly distinct and exceptional country. In interview after interview we were told that exchange programs are among the most potent and cost-effective instruments in the U.S. foreign policy toolkit. ‘Citizen ambassadors’ emerge from these exchanges and return to their own countries equipped with American democratic principles and the ability to advance U.S. interests.

As Ambassador Frank Wisner, former undersecretary of State, told us in an interview, “Exchanges represent the best way to communicate American values, something with which China and Russia cannot compete.”

Out of the darkness of a year of terrible loss and detachment, a renewal of human contact is the best kind of light at the end of the tunnel. Doubling down on exchanges will inspire, inform and engage foreign audiences while promoting closer ties with U.S. allies and competitors alike.  Whether they be private sector, academic, professional or citizen exchanges, we found that people-to-people engagements have overwhelmingly benefited U.S. foreign policy.

Across the globe, diverse exchange alumni who understand and embrace the United States, play prominent roles in their respective countries. In an interview with U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Ronald Gitwitz, he noted that 15 percent of the European Parliament and 25 percent of the European Commission are International Visitor Leadership Program or Fulbright alumni.

There are a multitude of world leaders who have participated in State Department exchanges. They are joined by legions of others from business, the arts, academia, civil society and lower levels of foreign governments who are exchange alumni.

Among those who participated in State Department exchanges were multiple Nobel laureates such as 2006 Nobel Peace Prize recipient and Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus, as well as legions of leaders from all parts of the world who rose to the top of their respective governments including current New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern; Burma head of government Aung San Suu Kyi; former Prime Minister of Sweden Carl Bildt, French President Nicolas Sarkozy; British Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown; President Anwar Sadat of Egypt; Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India and President F.W. de Klerk of South Africa.

What better return on investment than to have young leaders experience U.S. society directly? Exchanges facilitate direct engagement with counterparts in the academic, governmental, business and cultural fields and are effective in promoting economic values of private enterprise and free markets.

As the new administration formulates its approach and strategy for engaging allies and competitors, it has a powerful tool readily available. The impact of this instrument is underrated but should be maximized. Public diplomacy in its most elemental form — people-to-people exchanges — is one of the best instruments the U.S. has to advance its foreign policy objectives. 

Successful foreign policy and international trade is built on trust; international exchanges lay the foundation for trust — a ‘simple’ formula for quiet diplomacy. President Barack Obama said, “Simple exchanges can break walls down between us, for when people come together and speak to one another and share a common experience, then their common humanity is revealed.”

In the past, the American approach to public diplomacy and exchange activities has proven to be the gold standard.  With a cohesive, policy-based approach, we can upgrade to platinum.

Ambassador Paula J. Dobriansky is former undersecretary of State for Global Affairs, 2001-2009; Edward Gabriel is former U.S. ambassador to Morocco, 1997-2001; and ambassador Marisa Lino is former assistant secretary for International Affairs at the Department of Homeland Security, 2007-2008.

Read more

Federal leaders must promote the public’s faith in government for our country to solve its most pressing challenges.

Recently, the Partnership for Public Service created resources to help political appointees, congressional leaders and career civil servants serve as stewards of the public trust:

  • A case study on four federal investigators who prosecuted Medicare fraud with unprecedented success.
  • A video of their Government Leadership Advisory Council reflecting on the value of public stewardship.

Learn more

The Elliot L. Richardson Prize is presented biennially to individuals possessing the public service virtues exemplified by Elliot L. Richardson, a National Academy of Public Administration Fellow. Mr. Richardson was an exceptional public servant and the only individual in our nation’s history to serve in four Cabinet-level positions in the U.S. government: Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW), Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, and Secretary of Commerce.


Elliot L. Richardson was an exceptional public servant, a National Academy Fellow, and the only individual to serve in four Cabinet-level positions in the U.S. government, including Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, and Secretary of Commerce.

Shortly after his death in 1999, several friends and admirers of Mr. Richardson, along with the financial support of Hitachi, Ltd and the Hitachi Foundation, established The Elliot L. Richardson Prize Fund in honor of his memory. The Prize Fund’s sole purpose was to establish and administer the Elliot L. Richardson Prize, which is awarded for excellence and integrity in government service and public management. The Fund’s goal is to “inspire future public service by highlighting the accomplishments of other exceptional public servants.”

Originally established under the auspices of the Council for Excellence in Government, the Board of the Fund approached the National Academy about becoming the new home for this prestigious award and fund. In 2010 the National Academy acquired the Elliot L. Richardson Prize Fund – a $1.2 million endowment that supports a periodic award to one or more individuals for excellence in public service (when there is more than one award the prize monies are split among the awardees). The amount of the prize is determined by the fund Board of Directors and has typically been $50,000. Consistent with the public-spiritedness of Elliot L. Richardson, recipients of the award are required to designate one or more charities to receive half the prize amount they are awarded.

Award Eligibility and Nominations

The Elliot L. Richardson Prize recipients are chosen by a majority vote of the Board of the Prize Fund. The Board receives recommendations from the Fund Nominating Committee, from other Board members, as well as from the general public.

Deadline: April 30, 2021

Learn more

February is Black History Month, and the Meridian Center for Cultural Diplomacy celebrated by highlighting Black leaders in diplomacy, while recognizing the ongoing struggle to advance racial equity here in the United States. On February 11, they collaborated with Flowstate Films to host a panel discussion with government and academic leaders and the filmmaker of the forthcoming documentary Changing State. The film focuses on three Black diplomats – Edward R. Dudley, Carl T. Rowan, and Terence Todman – who were active during the Cold War and Civil Rights Movement and paved the way for a more diverse State Department. To see the film’s trailer and watch the full panel discussion, click here.

Meredian also published a fantastic Black History Month Spotlight Blog Series featuring stories about Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Condoleezza Rice, Dwight Bush, and more. Read more


The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 includes a requirement that each agency develop an evidence-building plan to guide its research and evaluation efforts. This plan is often referred to as a “learning agenda.”

The Office of Management and Budget is requiring agencies to develop their learning agendas now, in conjunction with updates to their quadrennial agency strategy plan, and make them available to Congress in early 2022.

A new report from the IBM Center for The Business of Government describes emerging practices for successfully developing learning agencies that meaningfully engage agency leaders, managers, and key stakeholders. The authors offer a used-centered design sprint approach for developing a learning agenda that attempts to bridge the gap between research users, such as policymakers, and the producers of evidence so that the resulting agenda is relevant and meaningful to decision makers.

The authors conclude with recommendations to agency evaluation officers, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Congress to ensure the upcoming first wave of federal agency learning agendas will be seen as useful and actionable.

Editor’s note: RFG Fellow Madison Chapman recently earned her master’s degree in Development Economics, Humanitarian Studies and Gender from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and received a Presidential Management Fellowship, which allows her to work as a civil servant. She also survived lymphoma while in graduate school, and now that she’s been in remission for more than a year, she wanted to get more involved in the cancer advocacy community. She recently published the following article on cancer treatment and fertility in Ms. Magazine.

This article is about health care access, infertility, President Biden, and the big business of fertility preservation and IVF in the United States.

But first, a disclaimer:

In December 2018, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It took a month of testing, prodding and scanning to confirm, but a biopsy finally revealed that stealthy stalker—cancer. I was 24 and in my first semester of graduate school.

Days later, I met my oncologists. I nodded robotically as we discussed treatment, survival rates, chemotherapy, nausea, hair loss. Then my oncologists caught me off guard: Did I want to freeze my eggs?

Between 20-70 percent of those undergoing cancer treatment experience infertility, yet only a handful of states mandate that health insurance companies cover the exorbitant fees for in vitro fertilization (IVF). Many of these mandates do not apply to those with cancer or other chronic illnesses. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), despite expanding access to health care, also fails to mandate fertility coverage federally.

Those faced with the harrowing decision to pay out of pocket for fertility treatment—especially transgender folk, queer folk, the chronically ill and Black women, who are at greater risk of infertility—can experience severe physical, emotional and psychological harm as a result.

My oncologists told me that I could undergo precautionary egg preservation. Yet my health insurance company, unsurprisingly, did not insure egg freezing, so I would have to pay the $12,000 sticker price up front. I had nowhere near $12,000 to spend, but with the immense privilege of family and community financial support, I decided to go through with the procedure.

After one month of injecting myself with hormones and feet in stirrups, I was able to harvest 35 eggs before chemotherapy—my own insurance policy on motherhood. Unfortunately, even with a generous subsidy from the Livestrong Foundation, that “insurance policy” cost $5,000 plus a shocking $1,000 annual storage fee—in fine print, of course.

Read more