The Consensual Straightjacket In The News

national security policies need to integrate and address the full range of human experience

Laicie Heeley is the author of a fantastic new article in Newsweek, a piece that illuminates and validates the critical need for the Ploughshares Fund Women’s Initiative. The article, Has the Lack of Women at the Top Helped Cripple America's Response to the Pandemic? reflects on women, decision making and national security through the lens of the pandemic.

Reflecting on the lack of gender diversity across government, she writes, “Resolving this gender disparity is not just a matter of equality, but a matter of national security. Its very existence colors the choices we make at the highest levels, including the things we choose to invest in: say, stockpiling weapons vs. stockpiling ventilators.

The Ploughshares Fund Women’s Initiative is working directly to address the gender imbalance in national security and to highlight the importance of women in policy decision making, especially as it relates to the most dangerous machines ever invented, nuclear weapons.

Heeley is the founder and chief executive officer of Inkstick Media and Things That Go Boom, two flagship programs in the nuclear security field that Ploughshares Fund is proud to support. Beginning in 2016, Ploughshares Fund supported Heeley in launching her podcast, Things That Go Boom, and her blog, Inkstick Media. You can listen to Things That Go Boom, produced in partnership with PRX, on Public Radio International’s website and iTunes and can read her coverage of all things national security related at

In her article in Newsweek, Heeley cites a 2019 study by New America Foundation The Consensual Straight Jacket: Four Decades of Women in Nuclear Security. Ploughshares Fund is proud to have also supported this seminal study. The study found that “women's perspectives are welcomed more readily outside of government institutions, and that a lack of female perspective inside the government leads to something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Interviewees in the study, which included former Under Secretary of Defense Michele Flournoy, identified an ‘insulated, hierarchical structure [leading] to narrow thinking that in turn limited policy outcomes and invited groupthink.’” You can read the whole study here.

The Consensual Straitjacket proved to be a ground-breaking and record-breaking report; it was downloaded more than 10,000 times and has saturated the field. It served as a driver of organized public events, private briefings with Hill staffers, and was cited by The New York Times and Washington Post.

To learn more about this report, you can also listen to this episode of the Ploughshares Fund podcast, Press the Button, featuring Heather Hurlburt, director of the New Models of Policy Change project at New America's Political Reform program, and Michelle Dover discussing US national security and foreign policy under President Donald Trump. Hurlburt is the co-author of report.

National security policies need to integrate and address the full range of human experience. We believe avoiding nuclear war, and eventually eliminating nuclear weapons, will require no less.

Learn more about the Ploughshares Fund Women’s Initiative and our work bringing inclusive security perspectives to the problem of nuclear weapons.


Photo: Laicie Heeley, who you might follow on Twitter, through her website, and/or through her podcast (via iTunes and everywhere podcasts are found). You can also read her national security coverage at