Experts Answer: Women in Public Diplomacy-Full Length Response

Women around the world are increasingly taking on more high-profile leadership roles in foreign affairs and public diplomacy. Similarly, public diplomacy priorities are increasingly focused on women and women’s issues. From your perspective, how has this shift towards the importance of women impacted your country’s public diplomacy priorities or affected your country’s public?

Despite the fact that I agree with your statement this shift is still too slow if we consider the speed in which other issues are developing in the 21st century. Areas considered “soft,” such as culture and education, are also being taken over by women as leaders. These sectors are not generally regarded as influential-decision making areas. In my country, Catalonia, (a nation with a history, government, language and culture going back more than a thousand years) this is still an issue to be resolved. Despite women holding 41% of the seats in the Catalan parliament, we still do not have an acceptable percentage of women in top government positions. Financial, political, and commercial posts are largely held by men and therefore key economic and political decisions are made by them. However, I also have to be critical with some powerful women’s attitudes. I believe that some should change their leadership style based on male role models and instead accept their own added values and skills as a woman. Women, for instance, have a more transversal leadership opposed to a vertical one. It should be a woman’s responsibility to understand that if she wants to play in the same game she does not necessarily have to behave and manage in the same way as a man.

Why? Because we are different and we need to accept those differences and exploit them positively. Such differences contribute to the enrichment of our society. We must apply our capacity to listen and empathize professionally. We can also incorporate more “masculine” skills, such as the capacity of taking risks and to delegate, without losing the other skills. I believe that only when there is gender parity in politics there will be parity in economy as a whole. If we want our societies to be successful we need to use the intelligence, the expertise, the skills, and the resources of all men and women and to capitalize on our differences. If women are still offered “soft power” roles, let’s take advantage of these opportunities and use the powerful strength that soft power has to change things for the benefit of all. I would like to add a quote from Roseanne Barr: “The thing that women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it.”

Roser Clavell, Secretary General of DIPLOCAT, Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia and former Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs to the Catalan Government.

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