When Madeleine Albright was interviewed about her time as the first female US Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton administration, one of the most remarkable point she made was,
“It used to be that the only way a woman could truly make her foreign policy views felt was by marrying a diplomat then pouring tea on an offending ambassador’s lap.”
Historically, diplomacy has always been a very masculine job. It has always been the preserve of men. Women were not accepted in significant numbers to diplomatic and consular services until 1933. Women’s most significant contribution to diplomacy before the mid 20th century was only wives of diplomatic and consular employees. In this role, women were expected to support their husbands by maintaining diplomatic households, presided as hostesses, developed their own network of contacts to complement the Embassy’s official work, and, in many cases, distinguished themselves via local, volunteer, and community services. Because both ancient western and eastern philosophers from Aristotle to Confucius preached that the state, like the household, should be led by men, women have been sidelined in the arena of foreign policymaking. The concept of the state itself was founded on the subordination of women’s labor inside the family in order for men to focus on increasing their wealth (Bloch, 2004). Thus, the world has always been so patriarchal and unjust for women.
When it comes to pursuing a job, women face additional challenges. They have had to work harder than their male counterparts, have limited access to ambassadorial positions, and have been subjected to sexism, discrimination, and harassment on occasion. In countries like Indonesia, the culture of misogyny in domestic politics prevents the development and public declaration of a fully feminist foreign policy. However, the nature of modern diplomacy has altered dramatically in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Women’s participation in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has accidentally been limited to primarily informal activities, such as events relating to the role of a diplomatic wife, as a result of the change to a more professional and bureaucratic Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is critical to explore the situation of Indonesia in the study of women’s representation in global foreign policy in the global south. The post-authoritarian era saw a surge in women’s participation in the area in Indonesia, which is particularly intriguing. As a result, it presents an interesting illustration of how gender socialization affects women’s representation in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the post-authoritarianism era. Gender socialization has had a considerable impact on women’s representation, which is crucial in determining women’s potential as diplomats. Because it creates and reproduces rules, norms, and values that improve or limit women’s engagement in foreign policymaking, it has the power to encourage or discourage them from doing so. Gender socialization is a dynamic process that can shift over time. When it happens, it will alter people’s perceptions of foreign policy and gender roles. Because of the reiterative construction of rules, norms, and values that favor women’s participation, when they move from being predominantly patriarchal, it may encourage women to participate more in the realm of foreign policy (Prajuli et al., 2021).
“Women belong in all places that decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are exception.” ~Ruth Bader Ginsburg
I could not agree more with that statement made by RBG. Equal voice and rights for women should be in everyone’s best interest. It is a basic practice of democracy and fundamental democratic rights, just as important as the air we breathe. According to UN Statistics, involving women in the peacemaking process increases the likelihood of a 15-year accord by 35%. Women definitely play an important role in keeping democracies stable and secure. However, the sad reality is women are still underrepresented in mediation and negotiation of peace processes. Despite numerous studies suggesting women’s participation in peace processes can increase the likelihood of long term peace, women representations are often undervalued, with female representatives accounting for only 10% in the Afghan peace talks, some 20% in Libya’s political discussions, and nearly zero in the recent Yemen peace process, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. This happens because the historically patriarchal world makes stereotypes and prejudices against women exist and difficult to be demolished. Especially, prejudices against women in decision-making positions and stereotypes based on gender roles and women’s and men’s leadership abilities remain universal.
The way that diplomacy can be more women-friendly is by having gender equality as a main political will with a clear political vision to progress. For nearly a century, women have been advocating for gender equality. It is needed to have the best people in the office to produce the best result for society. And, the best men for the job are usually women. Our elected officials should establish policies that allow peacemaking and political careers to coexist with family life. Family responsibilities should be separated so that young women can not only work but also engage in foreign policymaking. This will address a variety of crucial issues that are currently undermining equality, opportunity, and potentials in society, with a specific focus on women, such as work-life balance, pay transparency, gender pay gap, and violence against women, and gender balance in decision making. We need to attract politicians and diplomats from all walks of life to make sure that women's voices are represented.
“It’s really important that we have women involved in every public discussion. Every topic that we discuss as ambassadors and diplomats impacts women, and some topics impact women more than men, so it is critical that we have women as part of those discussions,” Canadian Ambassador to Indonesia Cameron MacKay told The Jakarta Post in a recent interview.
When women can have both, that’s when women will have finally made it in diplomacy. However, it is still a long way to go! Diplomacy is still very much a man’s world. Women, however, might take solace from the fact that a growing number of women are involved in international relations and occupying important roles. In international relations and foreign policy theory, gender stereotypes and preconceptions are becoming less entrenched. And, inevitably, topics that are affecting women and important to women are becoming more prominent.