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07/11/2016 WhereAreAlltheFemaleDiplomats?

KENNEDY SCHOOL REVIEW A Harvard Kennedy School Student Publication

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Where Are All the Female

November 6, 2016


Why I Flew Across The

Country to Cast My Vote for
Hillary Clinton
November 7, 2016

Where Are All the Female

November 6, 2016

A Tale of Two Elections:
When Madeleine Albright arrived at the
Why You Should Help Get
Democratic National Convention to see Hillary
Out the Vote This Weekend
Clinton accept her partys presidential
November 5, 2016
nomination, she dressed for the occasion: She
wore a brooch made of shattered glass to
symbolize the historic nature of her friends If She Votes, So Should You
achievementputting the biggest crack in the November 4, 2016
glass ceiling yet, as Clinton said.

The first female Secretary of State in U.S.

history, Albright herself is a trailblazer. Her
appointment opened doors for her female STAY UPDATED WITH HKSR
successors Condoleezza Rice and Hillary
Clinton and demonstrated women can and
should have a place at the global negotiating Subscribetoourmailinglist

email address 1/6
07/11/2016 WhereAreAlltheFemaleDiplomats?

table. Still, many of the women she inspired email address

are still grappling with institutional barriers
and gender bias.

Aspiring female diplomats for many years

were faced with an all-too-familiar ultimatum:
family or career, choose only one. The pressure
was both explicit and implied: Until 1972, the
State Department banned female Foreign
Like Share 4.2Kpeoplelikethis.Bethefirstofyour
Service officers from being married (let alone friends.
having children), and even after the rule was
lifted, conventional wisdom dictated that the
best negotiators were forceful, tough, and SEARCH OUR SITE
therefore masculine. At every turn, women in
the foreign policy arena were largely being
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undermined, as were their business
counterparts striving for seats in the
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In light of these obstacles, there is still much
work to do before women achieve parity in the
foreign policy arena. A recent analysis of
American Foreign Service Association data
conducted by the Pew Research Center in July
2016 found that of the 4,600 total U.S.
ambassadors that have served in foreign
nations throughout all of U.S. history, just 9%
have been women. The two countries in which
weve had the most ambassadors posted
Russia and Spain, with 74 eachhave had
exactly zero women posted there. Perhaps it is
unsurprising that we have never appointed a
female ambassador to Iran or Saudi Arabia, but
what is our excuse for never sending one to

There are two important trends to glean from

the American Foreign Service Associations
Female U.S. Ambassador Tracker data. The
countries that have hosted the highest number
of women ambassadors tend to be, first, those
less central to U.S. foreign policy (such as
Lichtenstein or Micronesia) and, second, those
most Americans have probably never even
heard of (including Kiribati, the Kyrgyz
Republic, or Palau). The countries that are
most central to American foreign policy, such
as China, Germany, Saudi Arabia, and Russia,
have had exclusively male ambassadors,
whereas the country that has hosted the most

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07/11/2016 WhereAreAlltheFemaleDiplomats?

female ambassadors overall is Luxembourg, a

small European country with a population of
just 500,000.

Today, diplomatic leadership roles still heavily

skew male, but that doesnt mean we arent
making progress. More women than ever are
serving in the Foreign Service, with the AFSA
reporting that women currently account for
approximately 40% of the officers corps. Pew
found that 36% of the 158 total
ambassadorships today are held by women,
and according to one blogger who has been
obsessively tracking Obama administration
diplomatic appointees, we can thank President
Obama for selecting women for ambassador
vacancies one out of every three times during
his two terms. Female diplomats have even
achieved parity in South & Central Asian
countries, occupying exactly 50% of the
ambassadorships in the region, according to

A Hillary Clinton presidency wouldnt just

shatter the metaphorical glass ceiling as
Albrights pin quite literally signified. It has the
potential to level the diplomatic playing field
both at home and abroad in tangible, lasting
ways. Just look at the opportunities her service
as Secretary of State created for female
diplomats in other countries. During Clintons
tenure, Washington saw a significant uptick in
the number of female diplomats to the U.S.
from foreign countries, a phenomenon
contemporaries dubbed the Hillary effect.

To better understand this trend, The

Washington Post in 2010 spoke to female
ambassadors who were experiencing firsthand
the benefits of Clintons service. The perception
was thus: Albright and Rice might have been
considered anomalies, but Clintons
appointment signaled a new normal. Claudia
Fritsche, the ambassador from Liechtenstein,
called the sequence of three female head
diplomats inspiring, motivating, and certainly
encouraging. Amelia Matos Sumbana,
Mozambiques ambassador, told the paper that
Clintons visibility made it easier for [foreign]
presidents to pick a woman for Washington,

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07/11/2016 WhereAreAlltheFemaleDiplomats?

putting cracks in their respective nations

diplomatic glass ceilings as well. The pictures
of U.S. diplomacy have been strongly
dominated by photos of women recently,
Meera Shankar, the first female ambassador
from India in more than 50 years, noted at the
time. As someone who had been repeatedly
mistaken for the ambassadors wife instead of
the ambassador herself, Shankar saw Clintons
legacy as the normalization of the presence of
women like her in diplomacy.

So if Clintons role as head of the State Dept.

could influence the decisions of countless
foreign heads of state, what could her
presidency do in terms of access and
empowerment for her own female citizens?
For women all over the world?

However, its not like a woman president is

unheard of; on the contrary, female heads of
state are nothing new in many countries
around the world. Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir,
and Margaret Thatcher served as the Prime
Ministers of India, Israel, and the United
Kingdom, respectively, as early as 50 years ago,
and today nations ranging from Germany to
South Korea to Liberia have women leaders.
But unlike newer democracies, the United
States has had two centuries to develop old-
boy networks, the results of which are walls
that are less easy to scale, Dan Schnur,
director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of
Politics at the University of Southern
California, told the Los Angeles Times. To put a
woman in the White House would mean
clearing one of the more significant remaining
hurdles standing between the U.S. and gender
equality, and it would show the world we are
serious about practicing what we preach.

Yet just as the election of our nations first

black president in 2008 doesnt mean weve
achieved a post-racial society, three female
Secretaries of State, an increasing share of
female ambassadors, and a potential female
president do not mean our work is over. But a
woman in the White Houseand a former top
diplomat at thatwould send a strong signal
the world over that the United States trusts

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07/11/2016 WhereAreAlltheFemaleDiplomats?

women to make the tough decisions and drive

the hard bargains that have too long been
reserved for men.

President Obama made a concerted effort to

build a more inclusive administration and
encourage diversity in his national security
apparatus. If Hillary Clinton wins next week
and carries on her predecessors legacy of
striving for parity in her administration, she
will have her own legacy: Showing women and
girls that there is nowhereno boardroom, no
embassy, no oval-shaped officethat we
cannot go.

Lisa Feierman works

in cable news
production in New
York City and
ispassionate about
shining a light on
policy issues that are
often overshadowed by horse race political
coverage. She is a graduate of theUniversity of
California, Berkeley, where she studied Media
and Public Policy.

Photo Credit: Flickr, via Creative Commons

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Articles Where Are All the Female Diplomats?


Established in 2000, the mission Why I Flew Across The

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of the Harvard Kennedy School Country to Cast My Vote for
Review is to publish articles that Hillary Clinton
offer compelling analysis and
Where Are All the Female
insight and put forward
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our time.
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Vote This Weekend

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