A Research On Women In Diplomacy And Gender Inequality
A Research On Women In Diplomacy And Gender Inequality

A Research On Women In Diplomacy And Gender Inequality

This research aims to examine the issues of gender inequality in diplomacy and to reveal the factors that cause it in the context of different variables.
This research aims to examine the issues of gender inequality in diplomacy and to reveal the factors that cause it in the context of different variables.

When the development of societies is examined from historical processes, it is seen that the roles of men and women differ. One of the main reasons for this is the difference in physiological characteristics between men and women.

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Research by Aytuğçe ATİLA – Onur HOKELEKLI

Gender includes social, cultural and political structures and norms built on physiological characteristics. In this direction, the phenomenon of gender has transformed into a power relationship over time and has created certain duty-behavior patterns for women and men. Until recently, as in many political and social events, the male-dominated structure of diplomacy has entered a transformation process with the increasing numbers of women entering the profession. There have been 3 female foreign ministers in the USA since 1997. The Swedish government, on the other hand, declared that it would follow a “feminist foreign policy” in 2014, aiming for a morally conscious policy shaped with a gender-sensitive perspective and carried out within the framework of human rights.

It is seen that countries are working on reform movements in order to increase the presence of women in diplomacy in the 21st century world. The increase in the number of women working as ambassadors, women in official institutions operating in the field of public diplomacy, or women working in international diplomacy commissions in parliaments can be given as examples to these studies. However, it is clear in the official statistical data that it is insufficient compared to male employment in the said diplomacy fields.

Female Factor and Its Effects in Diplomacy

During the 1815 Vienna Congress, which was accepted as a threshold for diplomacy to gain importance in the international system, Prussian Wilhelmine de Sagan, who was known as the “daughter of the Duke of Courland” at that time, is said to be the Austrian representative saying to her because of her dialogue with Metternich and the effect of the dialogue in the congress:

“If you were a man… you would be the ambassador and I would be the minister!”

Demel, J. A. (2016).

Then, during the congress, it is mentioned with eulogies that the wives of the ambassadors created important effects in the congress as the “shadow” of their husbands. It would have to wait until the middle of the twentieth century for the influence of women in diplomatic relations to go beyond being a man’s “wife”, “daughter” or “mother”, to become a “subject” rather than a “shadow”. The reason behind this expectation is that diplomacy is perceived as a male profession, as explained in the anecdote I included in the introductory sentence.

A Research On Women In Diplomacy And Gender Inequality
A Research On Women In Diplomacy And Gender Inequality

An example of the fact that the injustice created by gender inequality in the distribution of socio-economic resources was felt more by women was when women did not work in foreign affairs. One reason for this was the notion that women could not work in places with difficult living and working conditions and in areas of deprivation. The widespread view that if they got married, they would act according to their spouse’s preferences or that they would not be able to stay in the profession due to the birth factor, was another factor feeding this prejudice.

Among these stereotypes, women were coded as peaceful, physically weak and at a relatively high risk of being attacked, who could not keep secrets and had a weak ability to make rational decisions by prioritizing their emotions, and were deemed unsuitable for the diplomacy institution identified with protecting the interests of the state. Since interstate relations are shaped by patriarchal honor codes and power and power are associated with masculinity, sending women as diplomatic representatives is seen as a weakness and it has been revealed that male diplomats in diplomatic life do not communicate with their female colleagues except for a limited set of activities. This point of view created a deterrent for many years, women were not encouraged to enter the civil service in the ministry and as a result remained closed to women.

The Historical Role and Rise of Women in Diplomacy

Diplomacy is the institution that ensures the peaceful conduct of international relations. In feminist historiography, it is emphasized that peace has historically been seen as the domain and duty of women. It shows that before the 19th century, the women of the palace, as spouses, mothers, daughters and sisters, shaped interstate relations through their official and informal relations with other palaces.

Officially, the Treaty of Cambrai, known as the “Peace of Women” and signed in 1529, in which the daughter of King Ferdinand of Aragon was sent to England as ambassador in Spain in 1507, was signed by King Francis I’s mother Louise of Savoy and Emperor Charles V. It is recorded that it was signed between the aunt of Ms. Margaret of Austria. In Turkish diplomacy, it is seen that in the 15th and 16th centuries, the Ottoman court women Hürrem, Nurbanu, Safiye and Kösem sultans communicated with European administrators and ambassadors through gifts and letters, and they engaged in intense diplomatic activities, albeit at an informal level.

For this reason, James and Sluga also emphasized that women’s involvement in diplomacy is not only a result of modernization, but rather the continuation of the roles of women in interstate and intercultural information gathering, alliance building, networking and political negotiation that they have acquired since the beginning of the history of diplomacy. However, the professionalization of diplomacy with the Congress of Vienna in 1815 made diplomacy an exclusively male profession and limited the historical roles played by women in diplomacy. Women’s official role in diplomacy has only been realized in many countries since the first half of the 1900s.

For example, the first female diplomat was appointed in Brazil in 1918, in the USA in 1922, and in France in 1930. Adile Ayda, Turkey’s first female diplomat, entered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1932, earlier than many European countries.

A Research On Women In Diplomacy And Gender Inequality
Adile Ayda, Turkey’s first female diplomat, entered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1932

For example, the first female diplomat was appointed in England in 1946 and in Italy in 1963. In Spain, although the ban on women’s participation in diplomacy was lifted in 1962, the first female diplomat only took office in 1971.

With the professionalization of diplomacy, women’s diplomatic roles were reduced to the unofficial level as diplomat’s wives, and as Enloe stated, they continued to support the promotion of their country by organizing invitations and tea parties. Even today, many foreign ministries expect the wives of male diplomats to be educated and elegant and act as representatives. However, in return for the routine contribution of diplomat’s spouses to the diplomacy of their states, women in some countries receive a limited allowance, but in some countries they do not receive any allowance at all.

Gender Problems Women Experience in Foreign Politics

A Research On Women In Diplomacy And Gender Inequality
A Research On Women In Diplomacy And Gender Inequality

Today, we all witness in one way or another that the sexist problems that women experience in the public or private sector are high. The first of these is that the concept of balance of power still dominates today. In this regard, although significant progress has been made in women’s employment in the world, the inequality between women and men in this regard continues. According to the “World Employment and Social Situation, Trends for Women (2017) Report” prepared by the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the World Bank (WB), although the female employment rate is 49.4%, it is still 26.7% higher than the male employment rate (Table 1).

Table 1. Labor Force Participation Rates by Female Gender and (1990-2019)

(M=Male, F=Female, A=Gap or Difference) Source: WB, World Women Employment Status Report, Trends for Women, 2020.

The sexist problems experienced are also an ongoing situation in foreign policy. First of all, the main reason is the continuation of gender-based divisions of labor. After women were allowed to become diplomats officially, the sexist structure of the institution continued to show itself in the gender-based division of labor. In many countries, the rate of women at the “embassy” level, which is the peak of the profession, is less than men.

(M=Male, F=Female, A=Gap or Difference) Source: WB, Turkey Employment Status Report, Trends for Women, 2020.

For example, although the rate of women in Turkish diplomacy has tended to increase, as of 2014, the rate of women in the consulate and specialty officer category, which allowed the highest rise to the consulate general level, was 36.47%, while the rate of women in the vocational officer category, which opened doors to the embassy, remained at 26.32%. However, only 13.65% of these vocational officers reached the embassy level. This situation has progressed positively in Turkey as of 2019, and while the rate of women in the consulate and specialty officer category was 38%, the rate of women in the vocational officer category has advanced to 36%. Although the gap between the two civil service categories has largely closed, the increase in the embassy level remained at 24%.

For example, although the rate of women in Turkish diplomacy has tended to increase, as of 2014, the rate of women in the consulate and specialty officer category, which allowed the highest rise to the consulate general level, was 36.47%, while the rate of women in the vocational officer category, which opened doors to the embassy, remained at 26.32%. . However, only 13.65% of these vocational officers reached the embassy level.

This situation has progressed positively in Turkey as of 2019, and while the rate of women in the consulate and specialty officer category was 38%, the rate of women in the vocational officer category has advanced to 36%. Although the gap between the two civil service categories has largely closed, the increase in the embassy level remained at 24%.

A similar gender-based division of labor also manifests itself in foreign missions where male and female diplomats are appointed.

It is observed that women diplomats around the world are mainly assigned to African countries, multilateral missions and countries that emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In Turkish diplomacy, according to 2014 data, it is seen that male ambassadors are predominantly clustered in countries with high military and economic status, while female ambassadors are predominantly clustered in countries with high gender equality. In addition, it is noteworthy that women diplomats are mainly assigned to safer and more democratic countries, especially European countries.

(M=Male, F=Female, A=Gap or Difference) Source: WB, Countries Female Labor Force Participation Status Report, Trends for Women, 2019.

For example, in 2014, when the rate of female diplomats was 27%, 29% of diplomats working in European Union member states were women. On the other hand, the proportion of women among the diplomats appointed to the member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation remained below the average, at 24%. In addition, it is seen that women diplomats are preferred in international organizations, as women diplomats are treated more gently in multilateral missions and tough negotiations.

Reflection of Cultural Sexist Problems in Foreign Policy

First of all, I can explain the low number of women embassies in foreign affairs in two ways. First; In the past, male diplomats in the State Department had an overwhelming numerical advantage. Secondly; At the beginning of the sexist practices that are common in diplomacy, the ban on marriage applied to female diplomats from the 1920s to the 1970s, on an official and unofficial level, can be considered in many Western countries. This ban has deterred many female diplomat candidates or caused them to resign from their profession early. In the event that male and female diplomats get married, it has led to the resignation of predominantly female diplomats (eg Brazil) or a break in her career.

A Research On Women In Diplomacy And Gender Inequality
A Research On Women In Diplomacy And Gender Inequality

In Turkish diplomacy, however, such a marriage ban has never been implemented. However, Adile Ayda, the first Turkish woman diplomat to enter the profession in 1932, before many European countries, left her job in 1934 due to the decree prohibiting the appointment of women to foreign representations. She returned to her diplomatic career in 1957, when this decree was abolished. Some female diplomats who rose to the embassy level stated in the interviews they gave after their retirement that longer interviews were held with female candidates in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs entrance exams in the 1960s and 1970s; They stated that they were promoted late.

In addition, the appointment policy implemented by the Ministry from the 1960s to 1998, which prohibited couples from serving in the same representative office and city more than once, was a deterrent for many female diplomats and caused them to take a long time off from their profession.

Today, students studying in related fields such as international relations and politics are thought to be more suitable for this profession due to the predominance of a traditional male hegemony from the past in their approach to diplomacy and the difficulties experienced in the profession. Although this perception has decreased a lot compared to previous years, it is not completely over.

One of the main reasons for this is that the cultural and sexist practices that existed in the male-dominated world of diplomacy after women entered official diplomacy negatively affected women’s diplomatic careers and weakened their effectiveness. Not all of the problems experienced in the profession continue today, but more encouraging practices can be applied to change this perception completely.

E.g; By increasing the use of social media by diplomats, they can obtain information about their business and their own lives. Although everything is technology-based today, little or no use leads to uncertain and pessimistic thoughts among the diplomats of the future. In this situation, by actively using social media or informative platforms in the world of diplomacy, some traditional stereotype problems mentioned above are solved.

At the same time, it shows that in addition to the difficulties experienced, it is possible for women to take a place in diplomacy by presenting masculine features. Adile Ayda, the first female diplomat of Turkey, stated that she pursued femininity and masculinity together when she returned to the profession of diplomacy after twenty-three years, and Ambassador Sumru Noyan, who served in the United Nations Vienna Office, stated that she was looking for a common language with her male colleagues by watching football matches. confirms this fact. In order to eliminate these difficulties, it will be fruitful for female diplomat candidates to listen to the sayings and experiences of experienced diplomats on some platforms that explain how useful women are in the profession, and to follow them on social media.

Discussion and Conclusion

With the increase of women diplomats, many diplomats bring up the advantages that women offer themselves in diplomacy. These advantages are that they can deal with the problems of citizens more effectively in consulates because they are women and mothers; they are better at gathering information and intelligence because they are more active and social; They do not forget the details because they are understanding, hardworking and organized; It is stated that they solve problems better and bring a softer style to the negotiation table due to their empathy and communication skills.

It has also been stated that female diplomats are more effective in public diplomacy as they can reach local women. Combating sexist practices in diplomacy in this way – both by emphasizing the masculine features and by emphasizing the advantage of feminine features – results in reproducing the “dominant masculine” structure of the diplomacy institution.

In the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which was traditionally known as a “male-dominated” institution, it is seen that women have risen to senior positions by destroying this perception to a great extent. Developments are being made in the studies related to the prevention of inequality experienced today by women breaking traditional stereotypes. Women ambassadors, who hold senior positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whose number of female employees have increased significantly in recent years, play an active role in the creation and execution of Turkish foreign policy. While women mission chiefs in all corners of the world sometimes carry out their duties in the most difficult deprivation conditions, in Turkey, women diplomats and staff also contribute to Turkish diplomacy with devotion.

With the increase in the number of our female diplomats representing our country, we set an example for other countries, while at the same time, since diplomacy emphasizes a “representation”, it sets an equal example for the women of our country. In these difficult conditions, efforts can be made to increase the visibility of our women working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs so that we can witness and support their struggle for their country. Listening and watching themselves in conferences, news channels and discussion programs, especially in the use of social media, will shed light on those who want to advance in this way, especially young people studying in the relevant department of the university.

Research by Aytuğçe Atila and Onur Hokelekli