Then, They Were Twelve: The Women of Washington's Embassy Row

Then, They Were Twelve: The Women of Washington's Embassy Row

Then, They Were Twelve: The Women of Washington's Embassy Row

Then, They Were Twelve: The Women of Washington's Embassy Row

Synopsis

In the 1990s, for the first time, women were in the double digits in the Washington diplomatic corps. Sephocle provides a series of candid conversations with these women ambassadors, and presents a unique window on the world of diplomacy, shattering age-old myths about the frailties and limitations of women.

Excerpt

My curiosity was piqued when I found out that there were ten. So, I invited them to address the students at Howard University. They all came. The Washington Post describes the event the following way: "For those keeping track, the number of female ambassadors here is the highest ever, ten out of 172. McKnight, 58, is their doyenne, and all say they work twice as hard as their men to 'arrive.' [They] gathered at Howard University on Tuesday invited by professor Marilyn Séphocle, and enthralled students with their experiences and their wisdom. 'Diplomacy is like banking: it is about building up a deposit of goodwill to use when necessary, communication, consensus building and a good grasp of detail,' said Singapore's Ambassador Heng Chee Chan [sic], diminutive steel lily of the diplomatic corps. 'I fought intensely and felt passionately. I was never in the forefront of feminist groups. I am a feminist by being.' . . . This year she negotiated the purchase of up to seventy-seven Boeing 777 aircraft from the United States at $12 billion. . . . Pakistani Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, speaking recently about the number of female envoys, joked that 'we are getting into the double digits. Soon we will go up to half, but the real measure of progress will come in a few years when there will be six or eight men on this podium telling us how it feels to be a male diplomat.'"

On that day I was asked, "What prompted you to initiate and organize the Women Ambassadors Program?" The short answer is that I am not a feminist by choice but by birth. There is a longer explanation, however. I worked as a public information assistant at the United Nations headquarters in New York in the 1980s. Whenever I walked in the chamber of the General Assembly, the largest body . . .

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