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Drinks With Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins

The head of WCAPS talks international security, start-up life, and navigating as a woman in a male-dominated field.

Words: Laicie Heeley
Pictures: Holson House

Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins came to her work with a little luck — she says, “by accident,” — and a lot of passion. A recent grad, she’d taken a legal fellowship in the Office of the Secretary of Defense when she found herself sitting in a meeting on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

While some folks might have been bored to death, Amb. Jenkins was charged. She loved the process and, even more, she loved the concept of strategic arms — a subject that, up to that point, hadn’t crossed her mind. She moved from the Department of Defense to the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency at the Department of State, and the rest is history.

With a PhD, LLM, MPA, JD, and military service under her belt, Amb. Jenkins is overqualified for just about any job you could throw at her, so it’s fitting that she’s risen to the top of her field. Amb. Jenkins was nominated and confirmed in 2009 as the Department of State’s Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs in the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, where she led US government programs in chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological security.

Today, in addition to continuing her work on these issues, she’s added, arguably, an even more estimable task to her list: strengthening the voice of women of color in peace and security.

Amb. Jenkins’ organization, Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security (WCAPS) not only aims to create “a platform devoted to women of color that cultivates a strong voice and network for its members,” but also to “change the global community landscape.” Theirs is a much-needed and long overdue mission statement that, much like Amb. Jenkins, feels like a breath of fresh air.

We were honored to sit down with Amb. Jenkins to talk international security, start-up life, and navigating as a woman in a male-dominated field.

Click through the photos to read her interview, below:

Laicie Heeley

Editor in Chief

Laicie Heeley is the founding CEO of Inkstick Media, where she serves as Editor in Chief of the foreign policy magazine Inkstick and Executive Producer and Host of the PRX- and Inkstick-produced podcast, Things That Go Boom. Heeley’s reporting has appeared on public radio stations across America and the BBC, where she’s explored global security issues including domestic terrorism, disinformation, nuclear weapons, and climate change. Prior to launching Inkstick, Heeley was a Fellow with the Stimson Center’s Budgeting for Foreign Affairs and Defense program and Policy Director at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. Her publications include work on sanctions, diplomacy, and nuclear arms control and nonproliferation, along with the first full accounting of US counterterrorism spending after 9/11.


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