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AaeHillary EffectAAE cited for increase in female ambassadors to US.

By Mary JordanWASHINGTONAuIn the gated Oman Embassy off Massachusetts Avenue, WashingtonAAEs first female ambassador from an Arab country, Hunaina Sultan Al-Mughairy, sat at her desk looking over a speech aimed at erasing misconceptions about her Muslim nation.A few blocks away inside a stately Dupont Circle mansion, IndiaAAEs first female ambassador in more than 50 years, Meera Shankar, huddled with top aides after her prime ministerAAEs state visit with President Obama.Nearby, in a century-old residence with its own ballroom, Latin AmericaAAEs only female ambassador in Washington, ColombiaAAEs Carolina Barco, dashed back from talking up free trade on Capitol Hill to showcase her countryAAEs culture and food.There are 25 female ambassadors posted in WashingtonAuthe highest number ever, according to the State Department.AoThis is breaking precedent,Ao said Selma AoLuckyAo Roosevelt, a former US chief of protocol.Women remain a distinct minorityAuthere are 182 accredited ambassadors in WashingtonAubut their rise from a cadre of five in the late 1990s to five times that is opening up what had been an eliteAAEs men club for more than a century.A key reason is the increase in the number of top US diplomats who are women, what some call the AoHillary effectAo.AoHillary Clinton is so visibleAo as secretary of state, said Amelia Matos Sumbana, who just arrived as ambassador from Mozambique. AoShe makes it easier for presidents to pick a woman for Washington.AoThree of the last four secretaries of stateAuthe office that receives foreign ambassadorsAuhave been women.Madeleine Albright became the first female US secretary of state in 1997. Condoleezza Rice served from 2005 to 2009.Clinton, now in her second year, is especially well-known abroad because of her stint as first lady and her presidential run; she is seen by many as a globe-trotting champion of womenAAEs rights.AoThe pictures of US diplomacy have been strongly dominated by photos of women recently,Ao Shankar said. AoThat helps to broaden the acceptance of women in the field of diplomacy.AoClaudia Fritsche, the ambassador from Liechtenstein, a principality that only gave women the right to vote in 1984, said the Albright-Rice-Clinton sequence has Aoa worldwide effect. ... ItAAEs inspiring, motivating and certainly encouraging.AoAlbright said that when she spoke to foreign ministers around the world they told her governments had started thinking, AoWe need a Madeleine.AoSome American diplomats said the appointment of a woman can be a visible way for a country to signal that is modernizing and in step with the United States.For many countries, a Potomac posting is prized, landed only by seasoned diplomats and influential political players. More women now have those credentials, a reflection of womenAAEs advancement in many parts of the world.Eleven of the 25 female envoys in Washington are from Africa. Four are from Caribbean nations. The others are from Bahrain, the Netherlands, Croatia, Kyrgyzstan, Singapore, Oman, Colombia, India, Liechtenstein and Nauru, an eight-square-mile Pacific island with only 14,000 people.Heng Chee Chan, the Singaporean ambassador and the longest-serving female envoy in Washington, said it has been a Aoquantum leapAo for women in diplomacy since she arrived here in 1996.In the beginning, she said people just assumed she was a man. When a table was booked under AoAmbassador ChanAo and she arrived asking for it, she was told, AaeOh, he is not here yetAAE.AoMany said they are still often bypassed in receiving lines and the male standing beside them is greeted as AoMr AmbassadorAo.AoEven when I say I am ambassador, people assume I am the spouse,Ao said Shankar, who has represented India in Washington for nearly a year.More than half of new recruits for the US Foreign Service and 30 percent of the chiefs of mission are now women, according to the State Department. That is a seismic shift from the days, as late as the 1970s, when women in the Foreign Service had to quit when they married, a rule that did not apply to men.AoIt was outrageous,Ao said Susan Johnson, president of the American Foreign Service Association. AoThe idea was that a married woman could not be available for worldwide service. She would be having children and making a home.AoThat thinking is still alive in many parts of the world. But as the US Foreign Service moves away from being Aopale, male and YaleAo, the diplomatic ranks elsewhere are diversifying, too.Johnson said the rise in female diplomats coincides with what she sees as a shift in investment away from diplomacy and toward defense. AoIs the relative feminization of diplomacy indicative of its decline as a center of power and influence?Ao she wonders.But she and others welcome the change and say it will have an impact.Cathy Tinsley, executive director of Georgetown UniversityAAEs WomenAAEs Leadership Initiative, said gender diversity at the top of any organization leads to better decisions. When all the decision-makers have a similar background and mind-set, they can Aoamplify the errorAo.Barco, a mother of three who has served as ColombiaAAEs foreign minister, said capability and preparationAunot genderAuare what count. She held 630 meetings on Capitol Hill last year to lobby for a free trade agreement with the United States.But several female ambassadors said they often bring a different perspective to discussions than their male counterparts and tend to focus more on certain issues such as poverty and lack of schooling for girls.Shankar credited female leaders with turning the worldAAEs spotlight on the marginalization of Afghan women, and several US diplomats said that since women have run the State Department, US embassies have emphasized collecting information on rights abuses against women worldwide.Several female ambassadors from developing countries said they are attentive to issues affecting families, such as health care and the lack of safe drinking water.Albright said she guards against saying that women focus on Aosoft issuesAo. AoThey are often the hardest issues: Poverty, discrimination, education and health,Ao she said.Female envoys often pool their power to land meetings with busy US senators or media personalities. A group recently met with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.AoThere is a female kinship,Ao LiechtensteinAAEs Fritsche said, in her chic Georgetown embassy with its crushed-glass floor and rooftop views of the Potomac.No matter that Washington has often been described as a AoboysAAE club,Ao said Barco, being a woman does have its advantages. For one thing, you get noticed.And Chan said because of male-female seating patterns, she often gets prime spots, including next to George W. Bush and Henry Kissinger.WPBLOO

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Publication:The Star (Amman, Jordan)
Date:Jan 18, 2010
Words:1107
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