Women in Diplomacy

Women are still underrepresented in diplomacy, particularly in senior positions. This is despite a proliferation of networks supporting women in diplomacy, purported support by numerous governments for increasing women’s representation in negotiations, and research illustrating the benefits of including women in negotiations. What obstacles remain and how can they be overcome? 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.


Women in Diplomacy


Women in Diplomacy

This webinar was held on Wednesday 20 October 2021.

Meet the speakers

Maria Assunta Accili Sabbatini was an Ambassador in the Italian Diplomatic Service. Her diplomatic career began in 1980 and she retired at the end of 2019 after holding various positions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and abroad. In 2012 she was Ambassador to Budapest (Hungary) and in 2016 she went on to become Permanent Representative of Italy to the the United Nations and to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna (Austria). She chaired various Committees and Commissions among which the PrepCom of CTBTO, the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and the UN Commission on Narcotics Drugs.

Maud Dlomo is employed as a Deputy Director-General in the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) in South Africa where she has served since 2006. She has served in the following positions: Head of the Europe and Americas regions (2020 onwards), South African Ambassador in Madagascar (2016 to 2019), Head of the Africa Multilateral branch (2013 to 2015), and Head of the Diplomatic Academy and Policy and Research Unit (2006 to 2013).

Michaela Muscat Spaak is Malta's alternate Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organization. Her political work on behalf of Malta, the EU's largest shipping register, includes lobbying in the run-up to the IMO's biennial Assembly and Council election. In 2019, Malta was re-elected to the Council with a record number of votes. During Malta's Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2017, she was responsible for coordinating the external maritime policy negotiations at the IMO. Michaela is one of the coordinators of IMOGENder, established as a forum for IMO delegates to coordinate, share information, ideas and best practices aimed at achieving gender equality in maritime. In March 2021, IMOGEN launched a first-of-its-kind mentorship programme which matches female students interested in maritime diplomacy with Ambassadors and diplomats.

Pilar Saborio de Rocafort is a retired Costa Rican diplomat and now Chair of Aurissey, a diplomacy consultancy firm. During her diplomatic career she was Ambassador of Costa Rica to the International Organisations in Vienna, and Governor for Costa Rica to the 2016-2018 IAEA’s Board of Governors (BoG). Her prior ambassadorial positions include ambassador of Costa Rica to Austria, the United Kingdom, where she served as Dean of the Latin American Ambassadors to the Court of St James’s, as well Iceland. She was also the first ever appointed ambassador of Costa Rica to Ireland. In addition to her role in the BoG, during her time in Vienna, Ambassador Saborio chaired the 8th Conference of Parties of United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime, UNIDO’s Programme and Budget Committee 2015-16, and was a founding member of the Troika that launched the Gender Champions Initiative Vienna Chapter. She has both participated and moderated several gender-related discussion panels organised by different international organisations, UN bodies and NGOs.

Meet the chair

Karen E. Smith is a Professor of International Relations and Head of the Department of International Relations at LSE. Her main area of research is the ‘international relations of the European Union’, and she has written extensively on the formulation and implementation of common EU foreign policies. She has examined the EU’s pursuit of ‘ethical’ foreign policy goals such as promoting human rights and democracy, and policy-making within European states regarding genocide. For over a decade she has also analysed EU-UN relations, and more recently she has extended her research to consider the role of other political and regional groups in UN diplomacy. She is also currently investigating the role of women in foreign policy-making. Her books include Group Politics in UN Multilateralism (co-edited with Katie Verlin Laatikainen), Diplomatic Studies series vol. 16 (Leiden: Brill, 2020), which won the 2020 Friends of ACUNS award for the best recent book on the UN; European Union Foreign Policy in a Changing World, 3rd edition (Polity Press, 2014); and Genocide and the Europeans (Cambridge University Press, 2010).

Event hashtag: #LSEDiplomacy

LSE IDEAS (@lseideas) is LSE's foreign policy think tank. Through sustained engagement with policymakers and opinion-formers, IDEAS provides a forum that informs policy debate and connects academic research with the practice of diplomacy and strategy.

"Encyclopedia pages showing world flags" by Horia Varlan is licensed under CC BY 2.0.