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Female ambassadors discuss women's growing place in diplomacy
April 11, 2013
challenges faced by women in diplomatic service, the world has made
strides in ensuring women take up the challenging role of representing
their countries abroad, a role traditionally reserved for men until
recently. Two women diplomats, Ambassadors Lisa Stadelbauer (Canada)
and Barbara Joziasse (Netherlands), testified at a Ladies Night
event organized jointly by the Quill Press Club and the U.S. Embassy’s
Women Journalists Mentoring Program (WJMP). Currently, Harare is
host to 12 female heads of diplomatic missions (two of whom are
are good at diplomacy because they tend to be less confrontational
by nature, and they tend to be amenable to what we can call win-
win situations,” said Stadelbauer, who heads the Canadian
Embassy in Harare. “By this I don’t mean by any means
that women are soft or they are pushovers - you still have to have
a bit of backbone to pull in this game. I mean we have a different
approach than men to settle conflicts and in finding creative problem
solving,” said Ambassador Stadelbauer, who has served in her
country’s Foreign Service for 23 years.
Until 1947, she said, her country did not allow women to write the
Foreign Service exam which is the gateway to diplomatic postings.
She said between 1947 and 1971, women were allowed to write the
exam but were asked to retire or change occupations if they got
married. Currently, women make up 35 per cent of ambassadorial postings
in the Canadian government.
is not ideal either,” said Ambassador Joziasse. “When
I look at women’s issues, there are still a lot of things
to be done. At my level, 15 percent of the employees are female.
It’s not good enough and we are working on it.” She
also highlighted research that indicated that on average in the
Netherlands men are paid 18 per cent more that women for the same
jobs - a situation she said was not justifiable.
at the Quill Club are held monthly and are designed to promote the
participation of women journalists and speakers in the traditionally
male dominated press club. The platform, which was a belated commemoration
of Women’s History Month (March), gave the women diplomats
an opportunity to comment on various subjects including media freedom,
representation of women in the media, and how women can rise to
600 radio stations in the Netherlands - a mix of public and private.
(We also have) three national broadcasting companies that run several
radio stations, two big commercial broadcasting stations…and
this keeps the politicians, the private sector and civil society
on their toes,” said the Dutch ambassador. The Netherlands
is listed second on the World Press Freedom Index compiled by the
international press freedom group, Reporters without Borders. Ambassador
Joziasse described the limited access to information in Zimbabwe
is “a disgrace.”
a contradiction I cannot answer…. Very few people have access
to DSTV. It’s not because they are not interested or clever,
it’s because they cannot afford it,” said Ambassador
Stadelbauer highlighted some challenges faced by women diplomats.
“It is very, very difficult as a woman to find a good partner
who will quit their life and follow you around. Some of my very
dearest friends in the Foreign Service are still single,”
she said. “I got lucky before I even joined the Foreign Service
and that could have been the key.”
challenging to be a mother in this career,” said the Canadian
Ambassador, who is a mother of two girls. She said her country had
some of the most generous maternity and paternity leave provisions.
Canadian diplomats can take one year paid maternity leave. “It’s
put some operational challenges on our department, but I think it
is the right move,” said Stadelbauer. However, she noted,
this has meant that women choose postings where day-care is more
readily affordable and available.
challenged women to start taking themselves seriously and to claim
their space; but also encouraged them to choose their battles. “Take
yourself seriously, but not overly seriously because you get into
a situation that you start fighting battles that are not worth fighting
for,” advised the Ambassador.
WJMP was launched
in September 2011 as a joint collaboration between the United States
Embassy’s Public Affairs Section and the Humanitarian
Information Facilitation Centre (HIFC). The program prepares
young women journalists for leadership roles in Zimbabwe’s
increasingly robust media environment through one-on-one pairing
with experienced mentors; group meetings, discussions and trainings;
an academic short course; writing evaluation; and study tours.
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