In an April FED Access podcast, IWP’s career director Derrick Dortch hosted Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, founder and executive director of Women of Color Advancing Peace & Security (WCAPS). Launched in 2017, WCAPS works to advance leadership and professional development of women of color in the fields of peace, security, and conflict transformation. The organization provides a platform devoted to women of color that cultivates a strong voice and network for its members, while encouraging dialogue and strategies for engaging in policy discussions on an international scale.
Since her entry into the field of national security in the early 90s, Ambassador Jenkins has witnessed the limited diversity of perspective due to homogeneous workforces. Although she applauds the introduction of more women into these particular fields throughout the last decade, she also illustrates the continued lack of representation of women of color.
In today’s world, networks, mentors, and connections play important roles in professional advancement. Ambassador Jenkins’s own mentor who introduced her to the field, a white man, guided and encouraged her to dive headfirst towards her passion. She noted that an important part of instituting long-term progress may not always come directly from a person of color, but also allies and advocates who understand WCAPS’ mission and the value of diversifying the workplace and field.
Mr. Dortch and Ambassador Jenkins additionally discussed the exposure gap, wherein people of color do not often receive exposure to careers or topics in international affairs, and thus do not think to pursue them professionally. To address this, WCAPS has recently instituted the GenZer Program (“GenZep”) to welcome young girls of color from junior high through college into the WCAPS membership and expose younger generations to issues of peace and security. The program helps to not only actively engage with these issues through discussion, but to train young professionals in writing, leadership, mentorship, and other necessary skills to become future leaders.
WCAPS has active chapters in Atlanta, New York, Canada, France, Ghana, and the United Kingdom and is currently working on opening chapters in Brazil, Columbia, and Nigeria.