Around the Table is a three-question interview series from the Make Room email newsletter. Each edition features a conversation with a peer in the national security community to learn about their expertise and experience in the sector.
Simone Williams is the Director of Programs at the Leadership Council for Women in National Security (LCWINS). The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the position of LCWINS.
How has your work with Women of Color Advancing Peace, Security, and Conflict Transformation (WCAPS) influenced your career?
WCAPS has been one of the most influential organizations in my career thus far. As a black woman working in national security, I am often the only one that looks like me in the room. The field has recognized its lack of diversity and is working to ameliorate it, but we aren’t there yet. WCAPS continues to be a great space for me to be around other women of color national security experts. It’s a refreshing safe space where I don’t have to explain myself. I didn’t realize I needed that until I was there, and it was especially useful at the start of my career. Through my work with WCAPS, I’ve realized race and national security don’t need to be separate conversations, which has expanded my work/research interests. Lastly, I’ve always operated in spaces that allow me to help and give back to other people of color. WCAPS allows me to continue that work—currently I am a co-lead for the working group on Elevating Voices of Color in the Media for the OrganizationsInSolidarity, a project of WCAPS.
What resources are most useful for people early in their careers?
I think the most useful tip for people early in their career is to learn the discourse and debate of your subject matter. Find the organizations that are creating primers on your topic. Go to events. Get familiar with the subject. By knowing the discourse and debate, you will be better equipped to determine how your voice and opinion fits in. For those interested in nuclear security policy a few things to do include: signing up for the Nuclear Calendar or subscribing to a think tank of interest to stay up-to-date on events, reading primers by the Arms Control Association, or getting involved with the Project on Nuclear Issues (PONI).
How do you see your previous work on nuclear issues tying to your current position at LCWINS?
My previous job with PONI at the Center for Strategic and International Studies was a unique think tank program in that it is a professional development program, as well as a research program. My work there focused on helping advance young professionals in the nuclear pipeline by bringing in and cultivating new talent. I’m doing the same thing at LCWINS, except on the other end of the spectrum. I’m helping provide resources for women seeking the most senior roles in national security. We are identifying the barriers and providing information and resources to support women, so my work is somewhat similar. Ultimately, I’m working to advance diversity in the field and support those at all stages of the pipeline.
Sign up to receive the Make Room newsletter every month in your inbox.