Early October 2019, I sit down with an Ambassador who, in an earlier life, has been a high school Principal in his home country. At the meeting is a young, female counselor who is responsible for a whole plethora of diplomatic functions on behalf of her embassy. After the business of the day, the Ambassador asks me what motivates me. I tell him about my personal initiative, Women in Diplomacy, which has a mission to reach, inform, and encourage high school and college women to consider a career in diplomacy and foreign service. I explain that I do this because I truly believe that we need more women involved in all aspects of decision making and negotiations, both at a national and international level. The Ambassador thinks for a moment and then says, “You know, Laura, I used to organize and run career days at my high school each year and, not once, did anyone speak about a diplomatic career as an option – not to the boys or the girls.” He then turned to the young counselor and asked, “Did anyone tell you about this career path?” To which she responded, “No, I found out about it quite by accident.” My response, “Let’s have no more accidents!”
In my role as President of the Women’s Diplomatic Series, I get to work and collaborate with some incredible people working in our nation’s capital as Ambassadors, Deputy Chiefs of Mission, Counselors and Ministers. Such is the deemed importance of a posting to the U.S. that, when someone is sent to Washington, DC to represent their country, they really are considered to be at the very top of their profession, the creme de la creme of diplomacy, if you will. Whenever possible, I try to shine a bright light on women working as diplomats and have partnered with the top female diplomats of Sweden, Finland, New Zealand, Croatia, Mexico, Bahrain, Australia, Namibia, Moldova, Latvia, Italy, and Singapore.
The organization I am President of is relatively small; we have just one hundred and fifty full members and fifty young professional women members. I began to realize very early on that I needed to share the stories of these incredible women diplomats with the next generation. Frankly, no-one is telling our girls that they, too, can be Ambassadors and Deputy Chiefs of Mission – and I believe we need them more than ever!
Through my work, I have come to see that many people have this false belief that to work as a diplomat is to be a type of James Bond figure. We cannot continue to look at diplomatic careers as ‘rarified’ or only suited to the very few who have attended the best colleges or who move in elite social circles. If we truly want to see more women involved in making important decisions that effect their nation’s both at home and on the global stage, we need to encourage more women to join this small yet growing cadre of diplomats and top negotiators – or maybe we just need some Jemimas, Jamunas, Jalias and Jacinta Bonds!