Today, more and more women are at the helm of diplomacy and achieving success in the field, closing the gender gap while also moving closer toward gender equality.
The Philippines, for instance, is a remarkable example of gender-equal status in Asia with its 90 women ambassadors, as revealed by former Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Delia Domingo-Albert in her keynote speech at the “Women in Diplomacy” webinar.
This event, hosted by the European Union (EU) Delegation to the Philippines and the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), took place on 22 March 2021. The webinar, held in celebration of Women’s Month, discussed the state of play in gender equality in diplomacy and proposed steps to further promote women empowerment.
“I am sure that many of you have contributed your share in narrowing the gender gap. However, the greater challenge for us women in the Philippines today is the gap between women who have it all and the women who have very little or who have none at all,” said Ambassador Albert.
The webinar featured a distinguished roster of speakers, including EU Delegation to the Philippines Ambassador Luc Véron and Ms. Anne Kristine Salvador, Acting Director of Performance and Records Management Division and Gender and Development (GAD) Focal Point Officer of DFA Human Resources Management Office.
“The EU works together to realize a world where women and men, girls and boys, in all their diversity, are free to pursue their chosen path in life, have equal opportunities to thrive, and can equally participate in and lead our society,” EU Ambassador Luc Véron said. “We can all come in, not just in diplomacy but in all walks of life to have the political will to address gender equality, to generate awareness about the need to ensure gender equality and gender equity, to enforce gender mainstreaming in our workplace and our day to day living, to provide support to gender-friendly endeavors, and to continue the inspiration and aspirations to make this world more gender-friendly.”
While the EU is a global leader in gender equality and has made significant progress in the last decades, gender violence and stereotypes persist. However, the EU is firmly committed to continuing its quest for gender equality and empowerment.
Ms. Salvador presented the GAD Programs of the DFA, which included the GAD Focal Point System and the DFA’s four-year GAD Agenda (2019-2022). She also highlighted the significant achievements of the DFA in promoting gender equality in the international arena and outlined the DFA’s GAD Programs for 2021 as part of its efforts to continuously mainstream gender and development policies in its programs and activities.
Philippine Ambassador to Germany Ma. Theresa Dizon-De Vega, Danish Ambassador to the Philippines Grete Sillasen, Philippine Ambassador to Portugal Celia Anna Feria, and French Ambassador to the Philippines Michèle Boccoz also shared their best practices in gender mainstreaming, as well as their insights and reflections on the realities of gender dynamics in diplomacy.
Danish Ambassador Sillasen urged her fellow female diplomats to help one another make the foreign service a special place for women diplomats, as “Those of us who work in diplomacy know that it also tends to be very competitive.”
Philippine Ambassador to Portugal Celia Feria stressed the need to focus on programs that will allow Filipino men to participate. “They need to appreciate more the value and significance of gender equality and how this affects our interactions in our families, in our communities, in our societies, and in our country,” she suggested.
Many countries acknowledge the role and contributions of women in diplomacy by adopting gender parity initiatives and allowing them to occupy space in the field, as seen in the appointment of Ursula von der Leyen, the first woman European Commission president.
The discussion was moderated by EU Gender Champion, Ambassador Saskia de Lang of the Royal Netherlands Embassy, who noted that while there are plenty of gender policies being implemented to achieve a gender balance in the foreign service, much remains to be done.
Hungarian Ambassador to the Philippines Dr. Titanilla Tóth concluded the webinar on a realistic yet optimistic note, acknowledging the many milestones of women in diplomacy while recognizing the need to work together to address the remaining challenges. The webinar was supported by the UN Women, UP Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, and De La Salle – College of Saint Benilde School of Diplomacy and Governance. Participants of this “Women in Diplomacy” webinar included representatives from various diplomatic posts, government agencies, and universities that offer Gender Studies and International Relations courses.