International Day of Women in Diplomacy celebrations at Europe House
Written by Kinga Kutchta, EU Delegation
On Tuesday, 27 June, an event marking the International Day of Women in Diplomacy and celebrating the significant role of female diplomats in international relations took place at Europe House.
Highly accomplished and prominent diplomats, including Romanian Ambassador Laura Popescu, Gambian High Commissioner Fatou Bensouda, Georgian Ambassador Sophie Katsarava, Panama Ambassador Natalia Royo, and Sally Axworthy, Deputy Director of the FCDO, joined Professor Karen E. Smith and Professor Chris Alden of LSE IDEAS in a panel event commemorating the special occasion. They discussed, among other issues, the role of women in foreign policy-making and diplomacy, current trends in diplomatic leadership, as well as challenges and opportunities faced by female diplomats.
For centuries, women have played a critical role in diplomacy, yet their contributions were often overlooked. Today, more and more women serve as heads of mission in strategically important postings throughout the world, such as the USA and China, and play leading roles in multilateral organisations, including the European Union. Women break barriers and bring a unique perspective and set of skills to the table. Their knowledge and expertise broaden the scope of discussions and the quality of outcomes. They use their positions to promote peace and security, negotiate international agreements, and mediate conflicts.
EU Ambassador Pedro Serrano opened the Securing a seat at the table: Women in diplomacy event by emphasising the importance the European Union gave to gender equality. “Gender equality is a core value of the European Union and the European External Action Service (EEAS). At the beginning of the mandate of the Commission of President von der Leyen, she made it very clear that one of her main targets was to ensure gender parity in the key EU positions. The President started by setting a good example. [By selecting her] Commissioners and Vice-Presidents, she struck a very fine balance between men and women and achieved perfect equality from day one. [Also,] the EEAS has been working on gender equality from the beginning of its creation. It is important to point out that out of the three High Representatives, we have had so far at the head of the EEAS, two of them were women: Baroness Catherine Ashton, a great British politician, and Federica Mogherini, a great Italian politician.” The Ambassador added, although 32 per cent of EEAS Heads of Mission were female, more work needed to be done to achieve the institution’s gender-equality goals.
Following Ambassador Serrano’s remarks, the Ambassador of Romania, Laura Popescu, reflected on her achievements in her role as Chair of the Women in Diplomacy London network. Later on, Sally Axworthy, Deputy Director and Head of Negotiations and Peace Processes Department in the FCDO’s Office for Conflict, Stabilisation and Mediation, Dr Fatou Bensouda, High Commissioner of Gambia, Sophie Katsarava, Ambassador of Georgia, and Natalia Royo, Ambassador of the Republic of Panama, spoke about their professional experiences, career advancements, and balancing heavy workload with family life.
The event ended with closing remarks by the Deputy Head of the EU Delegation, Nicole Mannion.