There is no question of the benefits of having women in high places and in 2000 the United National Security Council adopted a resolution reaffirming the “important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts.” Powerful women were celebrated at an event in Athens last week where the guest speakers were four female ambassadors who represent their respective countries in Greece.
“Women in Diplomacy: Challenges and Opportunities for Women in Public Life” comprised a conversation with the ambassadors of the United Kingdom, Sweden, India and Australia – Kate Smith, Charlotte Sammelin, Shamma Jain and Kate Logan respectively. Organized by the American College of Greece’s Institute of Global Affairs and the NGO Women Act, the discussion was coordinated by poet and IGA director Haris Vlavianos.
Sitting in the front row at the ACG’s John S. Bailey Library were ambassadors Mark Allen of Canada and Ana Vukadinovic of Montenegro, while the rest of the seats were taken up by young men and women studying at ACG, who were eager to participate in the topics addressed with such forthrightness, honesty and often humor by the guest speakers.
All four guests admitted to having experienced an awkward silence on being the only woman walking into a meeting with dozens of men, saying that instead of letting it get them down, they saw it as an opportunity to stand out.
Kate Smith reminisced on the early days of her diplomatic career and reminded the audience that up until 1979 women serving as UK ambassadors had to resign if they wanted to get married, though she also stressed that men and women in Britain today enjoy equal opportunities thanks to the country’s strong institutions.
Sweden’s Charlotte Sammelin advised that women should not try to emulate men in order to get respect or come across as overpowering, while India’s Shamma Jain argued that women tend to take on more responsibilities, to try harder, in a bid to earn respect.
Kate Logan of Australia praised her country’s Male Champions of Change campaign by men fighting for gender equality.