Changing the conversation around nuclear weapons is fundamental to fulfilling the Ploughshares Fund mission. Just as important is ensuring that women’s voices are actually heard in these conversations.
As a sarcastic Russian male diplomat best illustrated, when asked to explain his wonky and convoluted point of view to then Senior Defense Department Official Laura Holgate, “let me put this in terms a woman would understand.”
That was back in the 1980s. While strides have been made, the spirit of passive aggressive national security mansplaining remains. It’s stories like these that led New America, one of Washington’s leading think tanks, to launch a groundbreaking report: “Consensual Straightjacket: Four Decades of Women in Nuclear Security.” The study, supported by the Ploughshares Fund Women’s Initiative, includes interviews with Holgate and 22 other women who have worked at senior levels in the nuclear, arms control, and non-proliferation fields, their careers ranging from the 1970s to the present day.
Rich with analysis and practical research, it explores the gender dynamics surrounding hierarchy, language, and ideology, and how women working in these fields responded personally and professionally.
And it struck a chord.
The report was downloaded more than 10,000 times and set social media engagement records for New America. The Consensual Straightjacket report also served as an impact driver – for organized public events, private briefings with Hill staffers and media engagement. It was cited by The New York Times, Washington Post and Newsweek. In an op-ed in The New York Times, headlined “The Nuclear Weapons Sisterhood,” where Holgate shared her cringy Kremlin anecdote, the author Carol Giacomo hailed the report as, “part of a growing effort involving various groups and individuals to make the fields more welcoming to women. Giacomo concluded that “the demand for nuclear [weapons] orthodoxy has excluded outsiders, particularly women, placing them in a ‘consensual straitjacket’ of conformity in a male-dominated world.”
Impact like this report is an important part of how we work towards the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons. The Ploughshares Fund Women’s Initiative is central to our mission because Ploughshares Fund believes that increasing the number and influence of women in arms control and national security opens the door to more just, inclusive, and peace-oriented policies. Through our grantmaking and programmatic activities, Ploughshares Fund is ensuring that new leaders and fresh ideas shape our national security policies and advance the goal of a world free from the threat of nuclear weapons.
As of May 2020, the Ploughshares Fund Women’s Initiative has invested more than half a million dollars in 23 projects focused specifically on the impact of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the nuclear field. We are proud to have co-founded a leadership network called Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy that brought together heads of almost 50 nuclear policy organizations who are committed to breaking down gender barriers through public commitments to concrete, measurable pledges. By highlighting the intersectionality of nuclear weapons, women’s rights and other social justice issues, this leadership network has expanded the number of institutional funders supporting the elimination of nuclear weapons. This partnership also helped Ploughshares Fund achieve gender parity in our grantmaking both in grants made and dollars awarded.
The Ploughshares Fund Women’s Initiative is currently conducting a campaign to raise $1 million to further these activities and grantmaking. To support this work, learn more by emailing Terry Greenblatt, a senior advisor of the Women’s Initiative at Ploughshares Fund: firstname.lastname@example.org / 415.668.2244.