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Women at the top in international affairs: success and challenges in leadership

re:thinking tomorrow

Women now lead some of the most powerful states in the world. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and UK Prime Minister Theresa May are at the helm of the fourth and fifth largest economies in the world, while former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the first female candidate for President of the United States. Despite these successes, women are not equally represented in senior foreign service roles or international organisations. In many G7 countries, less than a third of ambassadors are women. No woman has ever led the United Nations, although several were shortlisted for Secretary General this year, and less than 30 percent of its Under-Secretary-Generals are women. This is all the more puzzling now that many institutions are hiring a near equal ratio of women and men at entry level.

Why do so few women reach the top in international affairs and what should be done? Is it up to women to ‘lean in’ and assume more leadership roles, as Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg says? Or should institutions become more family-friendly for both women and men as US foreign policy expert Anne-Marie Slaughter has urged?

This panel will discuss why women are often under-represented in senior leadership and what their institutions are doing to address this situation.

Panel discussion:

Marie Gervais-Vidricaire (Canadian Ambassador to Germany),

Cyril Nunn (Federal Foreign Office),

Patricia O’Donovan (International Labour Organization), and

Nina Hall (Hertie School).


Sarah Harman (Deutsche Welle)

re:thinking tomorrow is a discussion series hosted by Deutsche Welle and the Hertie School.