Founder's note: Stop calling women "guys"

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Growing up in France, it was impossible not to know that language is sexist. One of the first grammar rules I learnt was that "le masculin l'emporte": no matter how many feminine nouns there is in an enumeration, as long as there is at least one masculine one, adjectives, past participles and the lot take the masculine. 

English grammar doesn't have this kind of rule, yet it counts many words that are only used to describe women. "Nagging" has been bothering me lately. Only women seem to be nagging. I just Googled "nagging man" - the third suggestion was "man kills nagging wife". The fourth, "man shoots nagging wife". This is sexist language used to justify violence against women. The words we choose are an integral part of ingrained sexism, as I was reminded reading Marina Keegan's The Opposite of Loneliness. In one of her short stories, she writes about how the female character's boyfriend had started to resent "her nagging habit", in order to show how the couple is falling out of love. 

In her March interview with men's magazine EsquireEmma Watson talked about how, even though she is engaged with feminism every day, she keeps tripping up on language. "I say "guys" to a room of girls all the time", she explained, which is when I realised that I do that too.

Working in luxury fashion, the majority of my co-workers are women. There are three men in my team of 17. For too long, that didn't stop me from opening emails with "Hi guys", or saying it in meetings. I'm paying attention to it now, though I still fall short of stopping myself every time. I've also started calling people out on it. I always get told that "guys" is a generic term, not a gendered one. Except it is doing much the same as French grammar: assuming that it is acceptable to choose a noun describing men to define women. Calling a group of women "guys" is acceptable, but many groups of men would take umbrage to being called "girls". 

Earlier this year, criminal defense lawyer Nancy Hollander recounted a great anecdote about how she convinced a judge, early in her career, to stop referring to all counsel as "gentlemen". It inspires me every time I encounter sexist language at work. Read it here and send me your stories of how you deal with sexist language. 

And here are some of the best replies: 

  • Ashley of The Broad Experience  pointed out that considering 'guys' to be neutral but 'gals' or 'girls' not to be is similar to considering the colour blue to be neutral but pink to be girly.

  • Emily of the Women's Foundation says "words are everything" and reminded me of how, when actresses complain about being called 'actresses', we make them all 'actors' which is similar to calling all people 'guys'.
  • Joyce at Facilitating Peace had an excellent point about how in French, women and girls are defined by their relationship to men. There are only two words covering woman, wife, girl and daughter (femme and fille) whereas there are four to refer to men at similar stages of their lives (homme, mari, garcon and fils). 

 

 

Founder's Note: “Thus human courts acquit the strong”

A divisive sickness plagued the kingdom. Generations, classes, races, turning on each other. They died not all, but all were sick. At last the Afghan Hound was called upon to unite the provinces and quieten discontent.

“My dear friends”, she said, “I think these trials show that heaven intend to tell us that we will need to build a country that works, not for a privileged few, but for every one of us. So let us find the one of us whose crimes are worst to draw the lightning on his head alone and, hopefully, at one stroke atone for all. For history teaches that in times of crisis, one often makes these sacrifices. So search your consciences, look deep inside; reveal the ugly thing you always thought to hide. Hold nothing back, wipe clean the slate: a public confession is good for the state!”

“I have insulted great nations and foreign statesmen, volunteered the Orangutan. Had they harmed me at all? No, not in any way. So that was wrong, of course. But wait - there is more. I must admit that sometimes it occurred that, inadvertently, I lied and mislead my fellow animals about those nations and about international alliances”.

“Oh, Sire,” said the Afghan Hound, “We have the best of kings, whose scruples show his noble soul. But, I ask, why was mocking other countries a sin? Those low, retarded things were honoured when you made fun of them. And, I observe, this international alliance got what such meddling, bureaucratic organisations deserve. The European Union, exploiters all.”  

My attempt at fable writing is heavily indebted to the 17th century French writer Jean de la Fontaine, particularly ‘The Animals Stricken with the Plague’. The italics were lifted from Elizur Wright and Craig Hill’s translations of his work. Like many of his contemporaries, La Fontaine used animals to criticise the monarchy and the unfairness of the justice system.

In ‘The Animals…’, the lion-king gathers the animal kingdom to discover out who is responsible for the plague that has struck his state. Each animal, from the most to the least powerful, lists its sins. All are forgiven until we reach the poor, feeble ass, who owns up to having eaten a whole field of grass, a laughable transgression compared with the human and animal deaths acknowledged by fellow mammals. But the ass has no backing, no one dependent on his power, so he is condemned to death, which La Fontaine uses to illustrate his point that “human courts acquit the strong, and doom the weak, as therefore wrong.”

I have been thinking about this fable since Wednesday evening, when the new British Prime Minister Theresa May appointed Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary. My biggest issue with Boris Johnson isn’t that he supported Brexit. Rather, it is his repeated and well-documented insults against foreign powers. A few hours before nominating him, May had declared, on the steps of 10 Downing Street, that she would prioritise “not the mighty nor the wealthy nor the privileged” but the working class.

Yet giving Johnston the Foreign & Commonwealth Office immediately negated the spirit of her speech. You have to be extremely privileged to be handed a top foreign policy job despite repeatedly making fun of foreign states and dignitaries. Many FCO staffers Johnson addressed the next day would probably see their careers seriously hindered, if not terminated, had they made, on the record, even half of Johnson’s comments. The political court has, for now at least, acquitted the mighty, wealthy and privileged Johnson.

Founder's Note: What are your self-confidence tricks?

Hilary Stauffer, then a visiting fellow at the LSE Centre for the Study of Human Rights, gave me an incredibly useful piece of advice two years ago. Walking back to the Tube one evening, after cocktails at the Bassoon Bar, we started talking about women who are successful in their early 20s and how much it makes me feel like an underachiever. Hilary told me that from the outside, my life looked like one of those women's. I have a day job in luxury fashion marketing "a million girls would kill for". Women in Foreign Policy, two years in, is doing better than I ever hoped for. Through it, I meet the most amazing and inspirational women on an almost daily basis and connect with great readers. 

I was reminded of this discussion last week on the Eurostar, editing an upcoming interview with Foreign Policy Interrupted co-founder Lauren Bohn. She spoke at length about how no one ever sees the cutting room floor. She talked about women who contact FPI disappointed not to have the same New York Times bylines as their colleagues, forgetting that before prestigious gigs come dozens of rejections.

I get annoyed when the lack of women in positions of power is explained by a gender self-confidence problem. Yet, based on the (not fully representative) sample of the 100+ women I have interviewed, self-confidence is an issue we all grapple with, especially in 2016, when everybody makes a social media show of having their shit together.

I have an amazing mentor at work, one of those women the entire building is in awe of. You probably have one in your office too. So here's my advice: talk to her. Years ago, she explained to me how some things made her feel. It was one of the most useful conversations I ever had. Sometimes with self-confidence, you need to be given the right to feel that way, and to know that even the most incredible women, the ones you look up to and who you never think would feel doubt or uncertainty, do.  

Whenever I have doubts these days, I look at my life as an outsider would (thanks Hilary) and I think about how successful women might actually feel on a daily basis (thanks Jenna). By the way, the first paragraph? I put an Instagram filter on it. Truth is, I rarely go for cocktails at cool bars, mostly because my bedtime is around 8pm.

This article initially appeared in the April issue of the Women in Foreign Policy newsletter, a monthly round-up of the best career advice from our exclusive interviews. Sign up here

Founder's note: La Demoiselle d'Avignon, a fictional depiction of the 1970's French diplomatic corps

Don't look for Kurlande on the map of the Baltic, it doesn't exist. Yet for a generation of Frenchmen and women old enough to watch TV in 1972, Kurlande is the very real kingdom of Koba, heir to the benevolent reigning family. To celebrate graduation, Koba travels to Avignon to pay tribute to Adelaide, a French woman who married into the royal family during the Napoleonic Wars. There, she meets and falls for career diplomat François Fonsalette, who has no idea she is actual royalty.

The six-episodes TV series is sweet and naff at times, its novelisation reading like your average fan fiction. Yet when I first read and watched La Demoiselle d'Avignon in my early teens, I got slightly obsessed with it, not least because its description of the French diplomatic corps spoke to my career ambition of becoming an ambassador. 

Fonsalette works for the Quai d'Orsay, the French equivalent of the Foreign Office/State Department. The scenes taking place in his office depict a white, male and aristocratic diplomatic corps, a vision too many still entertain when thinking about "our man in X". 

Fonsalette is a second generation ambassador, his family owes the Fort Saint-Andre, by Avignon where an old-fashioned (even by 1972 standards) butler officiates. Yet like most of the French aristocracy, they are broke. Fonsalette might be a diplomat but archaeology is his real love. When we first meet him, he is digging the Fort's garden looking for a Roman sculpture. He is the 1970's epitome of the cultured French diplomat, quoting Chateaubriand and Latin on request.

At the Quai d'Orsay, we see Fonsalette interact with his friend and colleague, the Duc Adalbert de Roquefort-Chavignol, your typical French aristocrat: he pretends to live in a castle but really rents a council flat. Another colleague is the son of a powerful civil servant, inept at his job to the point of creating international incidents but impossible to get rid of thanks to daddy's support. 

In the first quarter of the book, Fonsalette gets himself named Ambassador to Kurlande so he can find Koba (but Koba has left for France as an au pair to find François). Kurlande, with its obsession for herring, its crazy king who likes plunging into freezing water when meeting new ambassadors and its half-French, half-German-ish language, is seen as a career dead end. 

Hébrard and Velle wrote some of their strongest scenes parodying the Quai d'Orsay life; the ones at the embassy are a close second. The windows don't close properly, running a bath is a noisy and uncertain expedition and the ambassador can only use a couple of rooms. Much like Fort Saint-Andre, the embassy is staffed with a dedicated, old-fashioned man who has made service his life mission. 

As fiction and in retrospect, La Demoiselle d'Avignon lightly criticised one of the worse traits of the Quai d'Orsay: how diplomacy was a shoe in career for many aristocratic sons. As a consequence, for years, it was impossible to imagine women holding high offices as they barely got a chance to get in. As I have made inspiring more girls and young women to choose a career in foreign policy, including in diplomacy, this site's mission, sometimes I like reminding myself of where we have come from.

 

 

Founder's note: Experiencing the power of Facebook advertising

Photo Instagram user  maritheleneg

Photo Instagram user maritheleneg

Facebook's advertising revenue rose to $5.2bn in the last quarter. Earlier this month, the social network made The Economist's cover. The article was a reminder of why its ad model is so successful: the wealth of data Facebook owns on its users. 

Based on my experience with Women in Foreign Policy (WIFP), Facebook advertising does work. I have been using it on and off for just under a year now. About a third of my 1,500+ page Likes comes from Facebook advertising. 

All in all, I have spent just shy of £500 in Page Like ads, newsletter sign up calls-to-action and post promotion. 

Take this interview with Angelina Albaladejo of the Latin America Working Group. I promoted it with £10 over seven days. It resulted in 358 post engagements and reached 4,630 people. These are the kind of stats companies like to boast about to demonstrate they are digitally savvy and that Millennials love them. And that's the flip side of booking Facebook advertising myself: I have stopped believing the PR firms do around their social media engagement numbers. If, with my small budget, I can gain that many Likes, imagine what someone with an actual marketing budget can do.

Although engagement numbers sound good, their quality is disappointing. Facebook's key success metric, on the Adverts Manager dashboard, is post engagements (Page and link Likes, click-throughs etc) and cost per user action. For WIFP, most engagement has been link Likes.

I don't know about you but when I go through my Facebook feed, I do a lot of mindless liking. It sounds good, or it was shared by my friend, so I like it. It doesn't mean I actually read it. Click-throughs, shares, Page Likes and comments are more valuable, but harder to get from an ad, no matter how targeted. Although I can know how many people like the idea of what I post, I don't have meaningful dialogue with them, which is frustrating. 

Of course, I am buzzed when people like links. But I'm not going to take WIFP forward solely with what makes me feel good. So in the next few months, I'm going to target my Facebook advertising to newsletter sign-ups and page likes, and see if this increases traffic.  

(You can follow us on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/womeninforeignpolicy/)

Best

Lucie

 

 

 

Founder's note: Diversity also means different universities

Legal Justice League by pixbymaia   Custom LEGO minifigures of the first four female justices of the U.S. Supreme Court: (l-r) Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sandra Day O'Connor, and Elena Kagan. Set and photo by Maia Weinstock.

Legal Justice League by pixbymaia

Custom LEGO minifigures of the first four female justices of the U.S. Supreme Court: (l-r) Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sandra Day O'Connor, and Elena Kagan. Set and photo by Maia Weinstock.

Earlier this month, Justice Sonia Sotomayor argued for better diversity on the US Supreme Court, going beyond the definition of diversity as solely based on race and gender: 

“I for one, do think there’s a disadvantage from having [...] five Catholics [...] and three Jews on the court. [...] Everyone from an Ivy League school. And virtually everyone…from New York. There is no criminal defense lawyer on the court." [...]

The first Hispanic Supreme Court justice said having different backgrounds helped the justices “educate each other to be better listeners and better thinkers because we understand things from experience.”

“A different perspective can permit you to more fully understand the arguments that are before you and help you articulate your position in a way that everyone will understand” 

(From BuzzFeedNews)

When I started Women in Foreign Policy (WIFP), I wanted to show role models beyond gender: I wanted to interview women from all age groups and all ethnicities. I have recently realised that I also need to feature women who haven't come from the same universities that seem to provide candidates for most foreign policy jobs. 

Part of it is my own fault. Two years ago, when I started planning WIFP, my key issue was: how do I get women on the site? So I went to who I knew, my friends from the London School of Economics (LSE) and their acquaintances. It follows that in the early days, LSE alumni were overrepresented on the site. 

However, I have now published over 100 interviews. I don't believe it's chance, but rather a trend, that so many of them went to the LSE, King's College London (particularly the War Studies department), the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University or Georgetown University.

Of course they are respected universities, ranked highly on league tables, and their graduates tend to be successful across industries. But it also means that you end up with a unity of thought. I can spot an LSE grad from a single conversation, before knowing that's where they studied, based on how they frame arguments and their frame of reference.

This goes beyond how people are trained, it also speaks to the kind of students and life experiences these universities look for. Part of the reason might be self-reproductive: as it is known alumni go into foreign policy, prospective students who want to go into foreign policy are more likely to apply. I am also aware that universities aren't the only things that define the people who attend them. 

A key argument for more diversity in foreign policy, or in any sector, is that it can change the way organisations think and act. But if men and women are trained the same way, is that argument still valid? Or should we rejoice that there are more women, including women of colour, graduating from those universities who will be able to frame their points in ways that will talk to the majority, and has therefore a chance to win it over? 

As for my responsibility in this, I want to interview more women who didn't go to the ‘usual suspect’ foreign policy universities. I want to show to girls and current students that even if you didn't study at the ‘right’ university, you can still choose a career in the sector and make the difference you wish. 

What do you think? 

Best

Lucie

Event: British military intervention since the early 1980s - a talk at the Changing Britain Festival

On 22 March, our founder and editor Lucie Goulet gave a speech at the Changing Britain Festival at the Southbank Centre in London. Her brief was “British military intervention since the early 1980s”. We reproduce the full speech below:

Let’s open with some pop culture foreign policy. How many of you are familiar with Yes, Prime Minister? If you’re not, it’s a political satire that takes place in Westminster in the 1980s, and was one of Margaret Thatcher’s favourite TV shows.

The first Yes, Prime Minister episode, The Grand Design, sees PM Jim Hacker considering nuclear deterrent. This is 1986 and the fear that Russia will invade is fairly high. The idea is that the threat of the bomb will stop this from happening.

The Grand Design shows the absurdity of it. Hacker’s advisor asks him when he would push the proverbial button: Germany, Paris, the British coast? Piccadilly Circus?

So the 1980s were defined by this fear of nuclear annihilation yet it doesn’t show as much in terms of British interventionism. The two main conflicts Britain became involved in that decade were far from the Cold War theatres: the Falklands and the multinational force in Lebanon.

In many ways, these two interventions exemplify the three points I am going to make tonight: we mostly fight alongside America, which was involved in the peacekeeping mission; British wars have evolved from the typical two side war of the Falklands to wars involving non-state actors and both interventions had a strong domestic element.

To recap the three points I am about to make are:

-       We fight alongside America

-       We fight more and more non-state actors

-       We intervene to sort out politics at home

1- Fighting alongside America

Lets start with examining how we fight alongside America.

Out of the 11 conflicts in which the UK has been engaged over the past three decades, nine directly involved the US. In some cases, the UK encouraged the US to go to war - as with Kosovo - sometimes it was the other way round, most famously with the 2003 Iraq intervention.

There have been books and films made about the “special relationship” between the US and the UK when it comes to defence, including one by HBO in 2010 called The Special Relationship. If you haven’t seen it, imagine intense discussions between Dennis Quaid as Bill Clinton and Michael Sheen as Tony Blair over their respective destinies and, more importantly here, about the Kosovo conflict.

Kosovo is one of the few military interventions that’s considered justified on humanitarian grounds. In 1999, with Bosnian Serbs under President Milosevic exercising a tyrannical rule over Kosovar Albanians, NATO powers intervened in the Balkans, leading to Milosevic’s eventual capitulation. Blair was instrumental in convincing Clinton to support a military intervention and took a leading role in defining strike location with NATO.

The intervention was an example of the Blair doctrine of international community, a version of responsibility to protect. It is far from having unanimous support in the international community. Blair laid out the idea in a Chicago speech in April 1999 as the Kosovo conflict was raging: he argued that powers need to step up and take responsibility for humanitarian issues, even when it isn’t directly a matter of national interest. A state can intervene in another state, even if not provoked, as a way of preventing an imminent humanitarian disaster.

Yet when people refer to the special relationship, they don’t really think Blair-Clinton, or even Winston Churchill who actually coined the phrase. They think about Blair and Bush, and how the British PM came to be known as the American President’s “poodle” as a result of his perceived tendency to follow George W Bush no matter the evidence (the WMD evidence was controversial from the start) and the possible consequences (war seen as illegal by most experts, experts disagreeing that it would be a quick and easy war).

There was increasing pressure at home not to go to war against Iraq, including thousands marching in the streets of London in 2003. Maybe you walked alongside them, and one way or another I’m sure you had an opinion on the war at the time. I was living in France so, as you can imagine, we were against it. After a drawn-out process, during which the US and the UK tried to obtain approval from the UN Security Council, the two countries eventually intervened in Iraq as part of a coalition of the willing.

Coalition of the willing is a sentence that was invented by Clinton in 1994 to refer to a potential intervention in North Korea, an intervention that never materialised. Terms such as ‘boots on the ground’, the phrasing around going to war in this country is very much defined by America. Another example would be ‘war on terror’, another Bush-ism - widely adopted in English-speaking news and the cornerstone of the Iraq intervention.

The UK left Iraq in 2009, the US in 2011, ending the seventh intervention in which the UK had intervened alongside the US since 1980.

2- We’re not fighting state actors anymore

Now moving on to my second point, about the rise of intervention against non-state actors.

In the 21st century, the vast majority of armed conflicts pit traditional military against non-state actors.

The first significant conflict Britain was involved in in the 1980s was a traditional war, the Falklands. It involved a remote colony and a traditional state actor, i.e. the Argentine military junta. The 2003 conflict in Iraq, the second one Britain had been involved in since the 1990s, was against a state, even if it was a rogue state.

 Most enemies since then have been non-state actors, which is to say “armed groups, distinct from and not operating under the control of, the state or states in which it carries out military operations, and which has political, religious, and/or military objectives.”

Al-Qaeda and ISIS are both non-state actors, as have been most opponents in “the war on terror”. ISIS calls itself a state. It does bear some state-like characteristics, like having a territory, circulating money, rendering justice. However, it is little more than a constellation of armed groups loosely affiliated with one another under the nominal direction of al-Baghdadi. This set up was very clear recently in the Charlie Hebdo and Tunisia shootings.

Fighting non-state actors means it’s much harder to define victory. The controversial Falklands war was a victory in the traditional, almost colonialist sense of the term: Britain kept sovereignty over the islands, the Argentinians withdrew. The end.

You can’t say that of the interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq or Libya over the past 14 years. Yes, Britain went and left but the current campaign against ISIS is in many ways a direct continuation because of the feelings it left both in the local population and at home. Radicalisation of a fringe of the British population, and the decision of some individuals to go fight alongside ISIS, finds roots in the demonization of Islam, which has taken place and in the military interventions mostly aimed at Muslim-dominated nations.

War against non-state actors isn’t just difficult to define, it’s fought differently. Traditional war, in many ways, is one army of professionals fighting another, one known entity fighting another: it’s mirror images fighting each other.

Terrorist non-state actors are unpredictable and don’t respect the laws of war. You probably remember those horrific front-page pictures and stories of the murders carried out by ISIS. Geneva Conventions are ignored when fighting against non-state actors, even when states are still bound by domestic and international law. Preparing against non-state actor attacks, such as suicide bombing, is a challenge.

The lack of predictability means non-state actors use fear as a weapon. By doing so, by scaring the population of a nation into supporting or opposing an intervention, they affect political decisions back home.

Which brings me to my third point: how intervention abroad is really about what is happening at home.

3- Intervention is always about what happens at home

The UK has been part of the coalition against ISIS since last September, after the government gained the majority in the House of Commons. It is currently intervening in Iraq for the third time over the past 35 years. The second time, which lasted three years from 2003 to 2009, didn’t go well and burnt a lot of politicians.

In August 2013, despite the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapon, in violation of a universal ban, David Cameron lost a vote in the Commons to intervene on the ground. At the time it was heralded as a rare blow of this magnitude to a sitting government on a key diplomatic issue. MPs on both side of the aisle were unwilling to put boots on the ground because they feared the conflict would drag on and affect their own electoral prospects, in the same way it had affected Blair and Labour.

To return to the Falklands - Thatcher was struggling on the home front. In the spring 1982, her standing within the Conservative party was shaky following a difficult party conference the previous autumn and open dissent. The Falklands defined Thatcher as the character we now know her for as much as her head-to-head with the unions or her standoff on the European market.

To conclude,

British intervention over the past 35 years has met with varying results. Whereas a mission like Kosovo fulfilled its briefs, the ever-changing nature of military interventions against non-state actors means that conflicts now drag on and on and self-perpetuate.

Alone among European nations, Britain has been at war consistently since 1914. After troops left Afghanistan, the armed forces were said to hope for a respite, which considering the current intervention against ISIS has yet to materialise.

Even though we are still intervening abroad, these interventions are changing. A month ago, The Economist surveyed the British effort against ISIS and found that we had carried out less than one air strike a day, and that there were only three soldiers based outside Kurdish areas, whereas America had over 3,000. Britain is now the sixth country globally in terms of defence spending (US is first). Earlier this month, Samantha Power, US ambassador to the UN, actually called the defence budget cuts “concerning”, which many analysts took as a suggestion of another crack in the ‘special relationship’.

Surveys suggest the British people want Britain to remain a significant power on the world stage, a goal military intervention is part of. However, military intervention without a long-term vision is scattered and risky. Unless the next government redefines the UK intervention principles as well as what the special relationship means in the 21st century, it’s hard to imagine that this will change anytime soon.

 

It started with a speech about the lack of women in foreign policy...

Last NovemberFuture Foreign Policy, the independent international affairs think tank giving the next generation of foreign policy professionals a voice, asked writers to pitch policy ideas to industry experts and policy makers.

Mine, reproduced below in its entirety, was about getting more women working in foreign policy. I mulled over the pitch for six months, trying to come up with my own way to contribute to solving this, beyond words. 

This site is my answer. I aim, by interviewing successful, professional women at all stages of their careers, in a variety of foreign policy-related fields, to show teenagers, young women and women looking for a career reconversion that foreign policy can be a great option and a meaningful way to contribute to the world. 

Best

Lucie

Successful international relations mean more women should be involved

The absence of women in international relations bodies presents a challenge and makes policy decisions less likely to succeed the around the world. We need women to guarantee that peace will work, that a variety of issues will be given a voice and that the decision-making process isn’t skewed. For this to happen, a shift in mentality from both genders as well as further initiatives aimed at women are required.

Women are underrepresented in foreign policy and national security, from decision-making body such as the UK NSC, which only counts two women, to think thanks and academia. In the US, only 30% of senior positions in international relation bodies are held by women (Micah Zenko).

However, including women in foreign policy and national security “makes the job of keeping the peace easier” (Condoleezza Rice) and “raises issues like human rights, citizen security, justice, employment, health care” (Hillary Clinton). Women’s involvement in international relations has been linked to stronger sustainable development and to highlighting minority issues.

Governmental bodies, NGOs and international organisations agree that women’s issues need to be brought to the forefront of foreign policy and international relations, for instance with William Hague and Angelina Jolie’s initiative to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war or Barack Obama asking to empower women and girls globally (Presidential memo, 30 January 2013). In short, everybody, whether leaders or organisations, agrees that the world would benefit from having more women in international relations.

The lack of women in international relations doesn’t only mean women’s voices are less likely to be heard, but also that the eventual decision might be skewed by the male decision-making process, an issue which was studied following the 2008 financial crisis and named as one of its reasons.

Getting more women involved in international relations, whether as high-ranking civil servants or as part of grassroots NGO movements, is necessary to highlight issues pertaining directly to women’s lives such as reproductive rights and rape. For instance, Clinton used her term as Secretary of State to highlight the disproportionate rate of female foetuses in China or to criticise Afghan laws aiming to restrict Shiite women’s rights.

However, for women’s involvement to be efficient, it needs to go beyond classical female topics and should include defence, armament, cybersecurity and more  otherwise it risks remaining a token measure.

For this to happen, changes in mentality both on women’s and men’s parts are required. As a profession, international relations needs to get rid of the importance of the 'old boys network' by mentoring and training young women to demonstrate the possibilities their involvement would open and to show them how to navigate the field.  

To summarise this talk, if we want to achieve peace, we need women, women and more women.