Kelsey Suemnicht

Founder | The Women in Diplomacy Podcast

Why did you set up the podcast?

I founded The Foreign Policy Project and The Women in Diplomacy Podcast because I recognised a need for more diverse voices in foreign policy. I was worried about a drop off of women’s participation in the foreign policy dialogue.

For instance, the Institute for International Education reports that females make up 65% of study abroad programme participation. And females are earning upwards of 60% of Masters’ degrees in the US. So women have never been more qualified to contribute to the field of international relations.

But then men are quoted three times more often than women on the front page of the New York Times. Only 11% of economic articles were written or co-written by women last year. In a Washington Post article ‘The mysterious absence of women from Middle East policy debates’, organisers of academic panels claim an absence of women to choose from.

I thought it was one thing not to choose women for positions, but it’s quite another if there is none to choose from! So I reached the conclusion that women are getting the degrees, but they are not offered the opportunity to apply them and to put them to good use.

That got me thinking about what happens to women in the  span of 10 years, between graduating from college and launching a career. What resources were we missing to help them launch their careers? What mentorship wasn’t happening, or at least not enough? That’s how I came up with the podcast, to create a collection of resources where women knew that they could hear from mentor figures and learn new skills.

The home for all of this is The Foreign Policy Project, a place where youth can gain experience and understanding of foreign policy. I want it to be a place where the “foreign policy elite” knows they can come and find new voices to hire and to bring new light to their ancient policies.

What is the biggest challenge you face to find interviewees?

My biggest challenge is encouraging women to step up to the plate and convincing them to advocate for themselves. Many of them say “I don’t think I’m qualified enough, you’re likely looking for someone 10 or 20 years my senior.”

To that I say “No, I really want someone who is in the thick of it, who can really tell us what it is like day to day, fighting for foreign policies you believe in, creating them and implementing them.”

Sometimes women say “I don’t really work in foreign policy” or “I’ve had so many experiences, I’ve jumped around, I’m not a foreign service officer”. But that’s why I want to interview them, because they have done something different. I want to find out why they chose not to be a foreign service officer (FSO) because there are women out there who don’t want to become an FSO.

You have just completed a series of interviews with women at NATO. How did it come about?

A public diplomacy officer in the Canadian delegation to NATO found The Women in Diplomacy Podcast on Twitter. Their office was so excited to support the mission.  We decided it would be great to profile women who worked at NATO because they have very unique perspectives because of their different roles and coming from all different countries. They work at the crossroad of diplomacy, politics and military action.

All these women were spunky, adventurous and brave… It was awesome getting to know them. In our brainstorm sessions we could count on one hand the number of high-level women: ambassadors, a representative on the NATO military committee…

I interviewed women who are in touch with the policies that their staff has designed and in charge of fighting for them and making them happen. A team of three women helped me organise the interviews and I hope to do a follow-up with them as they are more mid-level.

The podcasts were recorded in advance of the 2016 Warsaw summit to highlight the value of multilateral diplomacy, especially in the face of the UK Brexit vote. It was exciting to see that multilateral diplomacy is alive and well and we have a diverse number of voices working on upholding it in the world.

What is your favourite piece of advice from the NATO interviews?

I did a series of eight interviews, each providing unique advice. One of my favourite pieces of advice was very straightforward and simple: the NATO spokeswoman, Oana Lungescu said she wore bright colours as, as a woman in a field of men, it automatically means she stands out. She sent me a picture of her in a beautiful coral-colour blazer.

Many interviewees advised us to embrace the unknown, to take it day by day. If you encounter a job or a project you have interest in, just go for it. Don’t try to think too hard about having a designated path.

A few of them had grown up behind the Iron Curtain. To hear the struggles that they went through to earn their degrees and their perspectives on the world made me realise that we have it so much easier nowadays as we can quickly access education and opportunities.

How can readers get featured on your podcast?

Coming up, we have the exciting partnership with Women in Foreign Policy. Look out for the monthly new episode as Lucie and I will be focusing on women in technology. If you are interested in contributing, or you want to nominate someone to be featured on that podcast, feel free to reach out.

You can find more information at All our social media handles align with the name. In iTunes you can search for “women in diplomacy” and it will come up under the compass logo.

I would love to hear from readers on a variety of things:

  • If you would like to be feature or to nominate someone to be featured

  • If you have ideas of topics to cover next

  • If you are interested in helping out, feel free to email me at,

Because this is ours - I want to grow with my audience and I welcome suggestions and ideas.

I am not looking for any one thing: the more diverse backgrounds we feature the better the podcast will be.

What are your plans for the future?

I would like to put together a conference where I can empower new, diverse voices passionate about contributing to and changing foreign policy to come together as a think tank incubator and spend time thinking about today’s most pressing issues.

I want a place where youth can learn more about what this career means and also engage on international issues in a meaningful way, not just learn about them in a textbook. I want attendees to speak with people who are dealing with it on the ground. I don’t think ancient policies are going to solve the current foreign policy problems. It is time for new blood and new knowledge to infuse our foreign policy with new energy

Additionally, I would love for mentors to be present, not just to pass on their knowledge and ideas but also to have the gathering be a place they can hire from too.

You have been working in digital diplomacy for a while, at Foreign Policy magazine and the US States Department for instance. How did you get these positions?  

They were brief research projects. I did stints at FP magazine and the States Department because I reached out and asked to shadow someone, or asked whether they needed help with their research for the summer or a semester.

I would recommend to anyone interested in foreign policy that, while they are in school especially, look for little ways to be involved in the topics you like the most because it helps you create building blocks for your career and it’s helpful to try things out to help determine whether its a good fit or not, all the while building your resume.

You are based in San Francisco, an important area for tech. Is there a lot of foreign policy initiatives launched out of there?

Industry leaders here don’t realise yet how key an area it is for foreign policy. The Bay area needs new minds to guide that. If you are interested in the future of tech, I do encourage you to come and check it out.

My career has been focused on digital diplomacy issues, doing research on public diplomacy and the power of social media, on digital communities, on net neutrality policies and on the future of the way our Internet is organised in terms of domain names.

Now I work at 1776, an incubator for start-ups from all over the world that finds the next global innovation leaders and helps them map their resources. 1776 looks at how we can apply innovation and technology to the social issues we are facing around the world. For instance, how do we tackle bureaucratic industries like healthcare, transportation, education? How do we encourage cities to become smart cities where they are maximising technology?

There isn’t that much out there in San Francisco yet in terms of tech and diplomacy because tech leaders don’t realise the impact they could have on the world if they updated their practices or if they had a focus  on social issues rather than profit. It needs a lot of work, so the tech industry needs us! if you are interested in the global impact of tech, and you decide to move out here,  It may be difficult at first. Even with my degree, during interviews, prospective employers don’t recognise my Masters’ in Public Diplomacy. In Washington DC, it would get me a seat at a table pretty easily. Out here, I have to explain what I can do for them. But tech leaders could really use the global perspective that us women in foreign policy can provide, which is exactly what Lucie and I will be working to prove with our Women in Tech series of interviews - tune in!

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