This webinar event, “Leading, Negotiating and Disrupting: Women Leaders in Foreign and Security Policy” was co-organised by GLOBSEC’s CEE Her gender equality and female visibility initiative and the Horizon 2020 ENGAGE Project, and was held on 8 November 2023. Guests tuned in to hear about the current role of women in foreign policy, the progress of equal opportunity and women’s empowerment policies, and where further strives must still be made. Two speakers were invited to share their perspectives: Ursula Plassnik, former Federal Minister of European and International Affairs of Austria, and Ingrid Brocková, former State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of Slovakia. The discussion was moderated by Judy Dempsey, Nonresident Senior Fellow at Carnegie Europe and chief editor of Strategic Europe.
- Policymaking: In the context of foreign ministries and institutions of policymaking, women have made great progress and their share of decision-making responsibilities continue to grow, yet they still find themselves in the minority relative to their male counterparts. This is concerning, given that women make up the majority in Europe and many other parts of the world. Therefore, standards in policymaking must shift to account for the importance of challenges tackled through diverse lens and to reinforce women’s confidence in making their voices heard.
- Role of Ministries: Ministries of Foreign Affairs (MFAs) ought to play a more pronounced role in this shift, which necessitates the promotion of equal opportunity, inclusion, and diversity; the creation of a corporate culture with mutual respect; efforts to include young women with different perspectives, and perhaps the establishment of equality, diversity and inclusion departments. Further, MFAs are often the first to gain comprehensive data from other countries and regions, a useful information to help compare and strengthen own progress.
- Role of men: When it came to the speakers’ personal experiences, they reported that generational gaps are a large hurdle but also hope when it comes to widespread acceptance of new policies which take inclusivity and equality into account. While young men are more willing than their older counterparts to engage with these topics, including UN Resolution 1325 on the role of women in peacebuilding, more societal unity could be achieved if more established male role models come forward to participate in supporting women’s inclusion. Men cannot be excluded from the conversation but rather welcomed as potentially impactful allies.
- Societal Unity: This societal unity is vital to the creation of policies which aim to elevate women in policymaking and to show that women are vigorous decisionmakers, as according to Ms. Brocková, “one can only go so fast as the society’s mindset is willing to go.” More ways to bring about this mindset shift could include supporting (financially or otherwise) the return of educated/specialized women to work in their country of origin and increasing women’s access be it to education, to new technologies, to career opportunities or other spaces (for debates and opinion-sharing) thereby improving women’s daily lives in a practical manner, while they, in turn, improve their communities.
- Diverse Perspectives: Finally, all policymakers concerned with equality, diversity and inclusion in Europe must be aware that not only Western perspectives are valid. As brought up by Ms. Plassnik, UN initiatives like the 2005 Arab Human Development Report were ground-breaking because female scientists and statisticians from the region helped to compile the report’s data, showing non-Western breakthroughs in female empowerment in a part of the world which women do not experience the same levels of societal freedom as in Europe. To aid in the empowerment and equality of non-European women, the UN can normalize the annual publishing of regional development reports all around the world, thereby engaging regional female participation while simultaneously serving the interests of all countries in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
If you want to know more, watch the recording of the event below.