Women in Diplomacy

Women are still underrepresented in diplomacy, foreign policy and public policy, particularly in senior positions. This is despite a proliferation of networks advocating for women across sectors, purported support by numerous governments for increasing women’s representation in negotiations and research illustrating the benefits of including women in negotiations.

This project at LSE IDEAS was set up to help address this issue, understand what obstacles remain and how they can be overcome. The project hopes to create better access to and accelerate women’s representation in international organisations, share knowledge and tools to effectively do so and support structural change.

The project has two strategic objectives:

1) To address the issue of women’s underrepresentation in diplomacy and foreign policy, particularly in senior positions.

The project aims to help address the issue of misrepresentation / underrepresentation of women in the field, by understanding the obstacles to representation and how they can be overcome. In so doing, it will acknowledge the higher barriers facing women from ethnic minority, non-elite and other minority backgrounds. The project hopes to accelerate women’s representation in international organisations and national diplomatic services, by sharing knowledge and tools to effectively do so, and supporting structural change.

2) To address the lack of gender considerations in foreign policy and policy making

This project further investigates, at both academic and practitioner levels, how policy-making processes can be utilized or reformed so as to produce more gender-sensitive policy outcomes. It will seek to understand the systemic and structural changes that may be required at the policy design and implementation level, with a view of developing a practical guidance on gender mainstreaming and gender-responsiveness in foreign policy.

Our 'Women in Diplomacy’ Project aims to:

  • Develop research, academic knowledge, and practice/strategy on issues relating to women representation and leadership across diplomacy, international affairs and foreign policy
  • Bring together experts, scholars, practitioners to advance knowledge, practical solutions, and understanding/outlook
  • Build partnerships with those working on similar issues to further promote practical solutions (e.g. resources and recommendations; research insights, etc.)

‘Women in Diplomacy’ will leverage the convening power of LSE IDEAS to bring together scholars, students, diplomats and activists to discuss ways to increase women’s representation in diplomacy and to foster greater consideration of gender issues in diplomacy and foreign policy-making, while recognising that the links between representation and policy output are complex. The unique contribution the project will make is to build on existing scholarly work not just through further research but through extensive engagement with the practitioner community. The end results will be practical and policy-oriented, with a view to helping to foster change.

In addition, ‘Women in Diplomacy’ aims to further support LSE IDEAS in ensuring a balanced representation of women across the Executive MSc International Strategy and Diplomacy Programme faculty, events, and other think tank initiatives.


WiD Episode 11: Women in Art and Diplomacy, 5 March 2024

This episode features Gabriela von Habsburg, who served as Georgia’s ambassador to Germany from 2009 to 2013. She is also an artist, creating abstract sculptures, and has been a professor of art. She was born in Luxembourg, grew up in Germany and then became a citizen of Georgia. She spoke to Prof Karen E. Smith, Director of the Women in Diplomacy project, about her unusual path to a diplomatic career and the importance of cultural diplomacy. They also discussed the challenges of representing a small country that had recently suffered from violent conflict. When she served in Berlin, she was one of only a few female ambassadors in the capital, and the experience made her think that we may need quotas to improve the representation of women in diplomacy. 

WiD Episode 10: Women in Leadership, 16 February 2024

This episode features the Ambassador of the United States to the UK, Jane Hartley. She is only the second woman to serve in that position. Previously she was the US Ambassador to France from 2014 to 2017. She also had a distinguished career in the private sector, and has served on a number of boards of trustees, including as Chair of the Board of Trustees of Sesame Workshop. In a conversation that took place at Winfield House, the US Ambassador’s residence in London, she spoke with Prof Karen E. Smith, the Director of the Women in Diplomacy project, and Marta Kozielska, the Women in Diplomacy Project Manager. They discussed the challenges facing women serving in the public and private sectors, the different leadership styles of women, the importance of role models (including in fictional media, such as in the Netflix show The Diplomat), and the benefits and opportunities that a career in diplomacy offers.

WiD Episode 9: Diplomacy in Multinational Organisations, 24 January 2024

Episode 9 of the podcast series features ⁠Nicole Mannion⁠, the Deputy Head of the European Union’s Delegation to the UK. She has been in that post since 2020, and before that, served as the Director for Brexit and EU Affairs at the Embassy of Ireland in London, as Ireland’s European Correspondent, and the Deputy Director for Human Rights in the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs. She spoke to Professor ⁠Karen E. Smith⁠, the Director of the Women in Diplomacy Project, about the importance of mentors in building a diplomatic career, the differences between working in the diplomatic service of a relatively small state and that of a large multinational organisation, and the efforts that the EU has made towards improving gender balance in its diplomatic service.

WiD Episode 8: Health, Development and Peacebuilding, 24 January 2024

Episode 8 of the podcast series features ⁠Alaa Murabit⁠, who leads the Gates Foundation’s health advocacy and communications programme. She is a medical doctor, women’s rights advocate, and an advocate for the Sustainable Development Goals appointed by the United Nations Secretary-General. She founded Voice of Libyan Women in 2011, when she was 21, and also recorded a widely-viewed TED Talk on ‘What My Religion Really Says About Women’. She spoke with ⁠Dr Mary Martin⁠, the Director of the LSE IDEAS UN Business and Human Security Initiative. They discussed the need to ensure that peace processes involve broader perspectives than just those of the parties to the conflict, the threats to women’s rights over their bodies, and why institutions have to change how they manage security and development. 

WiD Episode 7: Women’s Leadership and Communication, 27 November 2023

Episode 7 of the Women in Diplomacy podcast series features Dr Sandra Pralong, a state adviser in Romania’s Department for the Relations with Romanians Abroad, and a member of the Cabinet of the President of Romania. She has extensive experience in the field of communication. She served as the Director of Promotion of Newsweek in New York, and led the UN Development Programme’s communications efforts in the Central and East European region. She also served as a gender and civil society adviser at the UN Fund for Population. She spoke to Marta Kozielska, the LSE Ideas Women in Diplomacy Project Manager, about the different environments she has worked in, the importance of communication skills and the influence gender has had in influencing her professional goals and priorities.

Episode 6: Women Leaders in International Law, 3 August 2023

Episode 6 of the podcast series features Her Excellency Dr Fatou Bensouda, who is currently serving as The Gambia’s High Commissioner to the UK. From 2012 to 2021 Dr Bensouda was the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) – the first woman and the first African to serve in that capacity. She had previously served as the Deputy Prosecutor of the ICC, as Senior Legal Advisor in the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and in a number of roles in The Gambia including Attorney General and Minister for Justice. She spoke to Dr Henriette Mueller, a member of the Women in Diplomacy team and an Assistant Professor of Gender, Governance and Society at NYU Abu Dhabi. They spoke about gender equality in international jurisprudence, and the obstacles women, especially women from the Global South, face as leaders in international law. They also discussed Dr Bensouda’s leadership in ensuring gender equality and diversity at the ICC, and in advancing accountability for sexual and gender-based crimes, a first for the ICC and an important step in the development of international criminal law.

Episode 5: Women Ambassadors and Leadership, 27 July 2023 

In episode 5, Ambassador Nadia Theodore spoke to Professor Pamela Blackmon about the challenges of leading in a sector – trade – that has traditionally been dominated by men. Ambassador Theodore is Canada’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization, the UN Conference on Trade and Development, the International Trade Centre and the World Intellectual Property Organization. She has over a dozen years of experience in trade diplomacy, and has also served as Vice President of Maple Leaf Foods. Professor Blackmon is a member of the Women in Diplomacy research team and a Professor of Political Science at Penn State Altoona. Ambassador Theodore reiterated that groups of diverse policy-makers help produce better, more representative policy: to have trade policy that works for the greatest number of people, then different perspectives, including those of women and others with intersectional identities, have to be incorporated into policy-making. She offered advice on how to counter biases and to seek out mentors for specific stages of your career.

Episode 4: Women’s Leadership in Practice, 21 June 2023

The fourth episode of the podcast series features Baroness Catherine Ashton. Baroness Ashton served as Leader of the UK House of Lords, and then as EU Trade Commissioner, before assuming the role of the EU’s first High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Vice President of the European Commission, between 2009 and 2014. She has recently published a book, And Then What? Inside Stories of 21st-Century Diplomacy, about her time as EU High Representative. She spoke to Dr Rosa Balfour, the Director of Carnegie Europe, and a member of the LSE IDEAS Women in Diplomacy team. They discussed the challenges that Baroness Ashton faced trying to improve the gender balance and diversity within the new European External Action Service, the critical importance of diplomacy to help resolve problems and prevent further crises, and advice on finding mentors and building alliances in a multilateral setting.

Episode 3: Women Leaders in Climate, 17 May 2023

The third episode of the podcast series features Ambassador Patricia Espinosa, the former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. She also served as the Foreign Minister of Mexico and an ambassador to several countries and international organizations, and she was appointed Ambassador Emeritus of Mexico in 2012. She is currently the Founding Partner and CEO of onepoint5, a consulting firm specialising on climate change. At an LSE IDEAS online public event, she spoke to Dr Kamya Choudary, a member of the Women in Diplomacy research team and India Policy Fellow at LSE’s Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. They discussed the need for bold action to combat climate change, strategies for overcoming obstacles to the progression of women (especially from the Global South) in diplomacy, and what international organisations and national diplomatic services need to do to ensure that the diplomatic space is inclusive and diverse.

Episode 2: Women Ambassadors and Leadership, 3 April 2023

The second episode in the podcast series features the British Ambassador to the United States, Dame Karen Pierce. Ambassador Pierce is the first female British ambassador to the United States, and before that was the first female British Permanent Representative to the UN in New York. She has also served as British Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, and has worked on security issues in the Balkans and Afghanistan. She talked to Dr Ingvild Bode, a member of the 'Women in Diplomacy' research team and an associate professor at the University of Southern Denmark. They discussed the differences between serving in bilateral and multilateral settings, the importance of finding supportive mentors, and finding the courage to be a trailblazer.

Episode 1: Women in Leadership at the World Trade Organisation, 7 Feb 2023

The first episode in the podcast series features Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, the Director-General of the World Trade Organization, and the first woman and first African to lead the body tasked with lowering trade barriers and fostering the inclusion of developing countries in the global trading system. Among her many publications, Dr Okonjo Iweala also co-authored a book on Women and Leadership. Her appointment as Director-General in March 2021 was a major step forward in improving gender parity in the WTO leadership. As she recounts in the podcast, she has taken steps to try to make women and trade a much stronger part of what the WTO does, and to implement a gender policy framework within the WTO to recruit women and advance their careers in the organization.


The Women in Diplomacy events aim to engage the public in discussion on women leadership across international organisations and the impact, importance and the potential of gender equality.

Upcoming Events

More events will be announced soon!

Past Events

Securing a Seat at the Table: Women in International Diplomacy
Tuesday 27 June 2023

To celebrate the International Day of Women in Diplomacy, the project teamed up with the European Union delegation to the UK and Aspen UK to host an event with Sally Axworthy, Dr Fatou Bensouda, Sophie Katsarava and Natalia Royo.

Feminist Foreign Policy
Tuesday 4 October 2022

Feminist foreign policy has been progressively implemented by different governments in Europe and the world, including Sweden, France, Mexico and Canada. But what are the outcomes and benefits of feminist foreign policy?

Women in Climate Diplomacy
Wednesday 16 February 2022

Ermira Fida, Danae Kyriakopoulou, Bernice Lee, and Karen Smith explored the role of women in climate diplomacy. The panellists discussed what must change and how different scenarios will affect climate diplomacy, climate policy, and delivering on the 1.5°C pledge as a result?

Women in Diplomacy
Wednesday 20 October 2021

Maria Assunta Accili Sabbatini, Maud Dlomo, Michaela Muscat Spaak and Pilar Saborio de Rocafort discuss the role of women in diplomacy in the 21st century. The panellists consider the extent to which the context has changed over the course of their careers and the work that remains to be done to improve women’s representation in diplomacy.

Research and Publications

Is Feminist Foreign Policy driving progress for women’s representation in diplomacy? 
October 2023

Building on an October 2022 Women in Diplomacy online event, this Strategic Update assesses the implications of feminist foreign policy (FFP) adoption for driving progress on improving women’s representation in diplomacy. Tracking the spread of FFPs globally and the ministers responsible for implementation, this paper focuses on their potential for improving or strengthening the role of women in diplomacy – including in ambassadorial and cabinet foreign-policy roles. 

An examination of women’s leadership in multilateral diplomacy

The research project 'An examination of women’s leadership in multilateral diplomacy' is a recorded series of conversations between recognized scholars in the field and women who have exercised leadership in multilateral diplomacy, in which the experiences of particular women leaders will inform an analysis of broader obstacles to leadership in international organisations and diplomatic negotiations. In addition to the recorded conversations, the project will produce a report summarizing lessons learned from those conversations, integrating them with findings from the scholarly literature on women’s leadership, and providing practical guidelines and recommendations for policy-makers, practitioners and experts on improving women’s representation.

For more information on project contributors, please see Team.


We continue to build our network. If you are interested in the project at LSE IDEAS, please reach out to m.m.kozielska@lse.ac.uk.




Professor Karen Smith is Head of the Department of International Relations at LSE.


Marta Kozielska manages the LSE IDEAS Alumni Network and the Women in Diplomacy Project.


Project Contributors



Dr Grace Lordan is the Founding Director of The Inclusion Initiative and an Associate Professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Grace is an economist and her research is focused on quantifying the benefits of inclusion within and across firms, as well as designing interventions that level the playing field for under-represented talent within firms.  

Grace served as an expert advisor to the UK government sitting on their skills and productivity board, is currently a member of the UK government’s BEIS social mobility taskforce and is on the Women in Finance Charter’s advisory board. Grace the £2 million ESRC funded Diversity and Productivity from Education to Work (DAPEW) project. 

Her academic writings have been published in top international journals and she has written for the Financial Times, Fortune, Fast Company, MIT Sloan Management Review , Reuters and Harvard Business Review. Grace is a regular speaker and advisor to blue chip finance and technology firms.  

Pamela Blackmon

Pamela Blackmon is Professor of Political Science at Pennsylvania State University, Altoona. Her research areas include international political economy with a focus on the international financial and trade institutions. Current research projects include examining the increase of female leadership in the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization and, thus, implications for gendered policy frameworks. She is the author of The Political Economy of Trade Finance (Routledge, 2017) and In the Shadow of Russia (Michigan State University Press, 2011). She has published articles in International Studies Review, The International Trade Journal, Third World Quarterly, Global Society and Women’s Studies among others.

Rosa Balfour

Rosa Balfour is director of Carnegie Europe. Her fields of expertise include European politics, institutions, and foreign and security policy. Balfour is also a member of the steering committee of Women in International Security Brussels (WIIS-Brussels). Prior to joining Carnegie Europe, Balfour was a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. She was also director of the Europe in the World program at the European Policy Centre in Brussels and has worked as a researcher in Rome and London.

Henriette Mueller

Henriette Müller is Assistant Professor of Gender, Governance and Society at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD). Focusing on gender and women’s leadership, her research encompasses the comparative study of political leadership both at the national and international level, as well as across different political systems and sociocultural contexts. She is the author of Political Leadership and the European Commission Presidency (Oxford University Press, 2020), as well as the co-editor of Women and Leadership in the European Union (Oxford University Press, 2022) together with Ingeborg Tömmel; two special issues on The Role of Leadership in EU Politics and Policy-Making (West European Politics, 2020 43/5) together with Femke A.W.J. van Esch; as well as Women Opposition Leaders: Pathways, Patterns and Performance (Politics & Governance, forthcoming 2023 11/1) together with Sarah C. Dingler and Ludger Helms.


Kamya Choudhary is an India Policy Fellow working on climate policy with a particular focus on renewable energy, climate finance and transition to zero emissions  She’s currently supporting the India-UK Track II Dialogue on Climate Change and Energy.

Prior to joining Grantham Research Institute, she was an interdisciplinary social scientist conducting qualitative research on renewable energy solutions for farming in India. She holds an MSc and PhD in International Development from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. She pursued her bachelors degree in Political Science from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University. 

Inglvid Bode

Ingvild Bode is Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Southern Denmark. She is also the Principal Investigator of an ERC research project on autonomous weapons systems and international norms (AUTONORMS). She is furthermore Associate Editor of Global Society: Journal of Interdisciplinary International Relations.

Ingvild's research agenda covers the area of peace and security, with a theoretical focus combining practice theories and constructivist International Relations. She is principally interested in analysing processes of policy and normative change, especially in the areas of weaponised Artificial Intelligence, the use of force, United Nations peacekeeping, and more general dynamics of the UN Security Council.

Caroline Green

Caroline Green is an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow with the Department of International Relations at LSE. Her research focuses on the intersection of colonialism and women’s rights at the international level. Caroline has a decade of experience as a research and advocacy specialist working on feminism and international frameworks for NGOs and International Institutions.

Caroline completed her PhD and Masters at LSE (Msc Theory and History of International Relations) and holds an undergraduate degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Somerville College, Oxford University.

Anahita Motazed

Dr Anahita Motazed Rad has taught at university since 2002 at different academic levels, especially MA and PhD. She has also been in collaboration with institutions including the Iranian International Studies Association (IISA) (of which she has been Vice-President since 2018), UN Centre in Tehran (2014 to present) and the Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS) of Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (from 2014-2016).

She was the Executive Secretary of the National Conference of "Emerging World Orders and the International System" in 2021. She made speeches and presentations in the UN Center in Tehran regarding significant memorable international events such as the anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide (2016-2018) and "the International Day of Non-Violence" (2017-2019). She has translated and published two books from English to Persian, the first one Who won the oil wars? by Andy Stern in 2010, and the second one Meditation on Diplomacy, Comparative Cases in Diplomatic Practice and Foreign Policy by Stephen Chan in 2020. She has been in collaboration with the Educational Program on the Middle East and Africa of the Instituto Affari Internazionale (IAI) and presented three lectures on Middle East issues and the topic of “Iran’s Regional Role” after the Trump Administration (2021 to present).


Advisory Board (to be announced)