Monday, January 11, 2010

The ‘Hillary Effect’ on Ambassadorships to the U.S.

Official portrait of Secretary of State Hillar...Image via Wikipedia

Mary Jordan writes 'Hillary effect' cited for increase in female ambassadors to U.S. for WaPo (January 11, 2010):

Quotable quotes from the article:

"Even when I say I am ambassador, people assume I am the spouse."
Meera Shankar, Indian Ambassador to the US  
(India's first female ambassador in more than 50 years)

"It's a disadvantage that I am here by myself […] but that means I can work late and not feel guilty."
Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo
Ambassador from Bahrain since 2008

"Hillary Clinton is so visible" as secretary of state […] she makes it easier for presidents to pick a woman for Washington."
Amelia Matos Sumbana
Ambassador from Mozambique.

"It's considered normal if a woman goes with her husband but it's not seen as the same if a husband goes."
Angele Niyuhire
Ambassador from Burundi

Jordan writes that Ambassadors' wives have historically played a huge role in entertaining -- a key part of an envoy's job -- so that duty falls to the female ambassadors. "We need a wife, too!" several remarked.

Other tidbits from the article that you might find interesting:  
  • “There are 25 female ambassadors posted in Washington -- the highest number ever, according to the State Department.”
  • “Eleven of the 25 female envoys in Washington are from Africa. Four are from Caribbean nations. The others are from Bahrain, the Netherlands, Croatia, Kyrgyzstan, Singapore, Oman, Colombia, India, Liechtenstein and Nauru, an eight-square-mile Pacific island with only 14,000 people.”
  • “Women remain a distinct minority -- there are 182 accredited ambassadors in Washington -- but their rise from a cadre of five in the late 1990s to five times that is opening up what had been an elite's men club for more than a century.”
  • “While male ambassadors are usually accompanied by wives, female ambassadors are often here alone. Of eight interviewed, four are divorced and four said their husbands did not accompany them to Washington because of their own jobs.”
  • “More than half of new recruits for the U.S. Foreign Service and 30 percent of the chiefs of mission are now women, according to the State Department. That is a seismic shift from the days, as late as the 1970s, when women in the Foreign Service had to quit when they married, a rule that did not apply to men.”

Read the whole thing here.

More than half of the new recruits in the Foreign Service are women.  That may not be a great conundrum for the FS now, but before too long it will be. 

What would they do with the husbands?

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