Women in Diplomacy in Need of Bolder Leadership

Talyn Rahman-Figueroa, CEO of Grassroot Diplomat, discusses her recently published book on “Women in Diplomacy” in light of leadership of female global leaders in today's complex world.

See what she means in her latest Founder's Blog.

Photo Credit: Surian Soosay

Photo Credit: Surian Soosay

This founder’s blog was supposed to be optimistic because I had some exciting news to share, but you have caught me at a moment of pure anger.

Originally, I wanted to celebrate the publication of my new book “Women in Diplomacy: An assessment of British female ambassadors in overcoming gender hierarchy, 1990-2010” (hooray!). Instead, I want to vent…out loud…at the appalling acts of humanity we are witnessing under the leadership of our global leaders…many of whom are female and are failing diplomacy.

I wrote my paper on “Women in Diplomacy” back in 2010 to conclude my diplomatic training. Even before I founded Grassroot Diplomat, I wanted to dedicate my time on a piece of work that had practical implications on the operations of diplomacy. I focused on the British case study of female Ambassadors simply because I had access to them. I was incredibly fortunate that so many British diplomats wanted to participate in this project and gave me personal insights into their struggles. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office generously supported my work with a vast amount of data to back my research. Also at the time, I was a very active executive member of the world’s oldest women’s organisation where I learned about the founding of Security Council Resolution 1325, an important international legislation that stipulated women’s equality on the political stage.

Much of my work on “Women in Diplomacy” relays back to this UN resolution in the context of diplomacy and women’s very slow rise to becoming Head of Missions for their countries. What we need to focus on NOW is giving women the tools to REALLY stand up for ALL peoples, irrespective of national interests and without bending to the will of ‘greater men’ in power to truly overcome the status quo. The point about the people’s interest is something I have been banging loudly about since finding Grassroot Diplomat – the people’s interests should ALWAYS come first, above and beyond political and national interest, and this is NOT true to life in the hands of today’s world leaders.

Seven years since writing this book, I am dismayed by our lack of leadership and failure of diplomacy…I say ‘failure’ because we are seriously at the brink of war. Kim Jong-un is playing right into the hands of Donald Trump with his childish machismo behaviour at a potential nuclear war. The silence of Nobel Peace Prize leader Aung San Suu Kyi is bitterly disappointing over the perpetual violence and persecution of the Rohingya Muslims in her country. The hypocrisy shown by Ivanka Trump is (almost) laughable as she backtracks on her historical support towards closing the gender pay gap because ‘daddy’ doesn’t approve of gender (or any sort of LGBT) equality. I am completely disgusted at how Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina simply smiles at an interview as she openly declares that the Rohingya crisis is not her burden to bare and therefore will not help them. Brexit talks are a complete shambles as Theresa May’s government is withering apart – meanwhile, my European colleagues are scrambling to get their papers in order in case their lives are torn apart by incompetent bureaucracy.

It just goes to show that we have so much more work to do to ensure that the people’s interests are met not just by the United Nations (who needs more power to govern global affairs), but ensure we have equal representation at all levels with strong, positive voices.

I don’t feel that now is the right time to discuss the wider remit of my work on “Women in Diplomacy” – not because I don’t believe in getting more women to rise up in the diplomatic ranks but rather, our focus should right now be on preserving peace at all levels both in government and outside of it.

My book opens up questions on the wider participation of women in the field as well as practical suggestions on how to increase women’s active role in diplomacy at a more bureaucratic and operational level. I plan to do a podcast about the “Women in Diplomacy” book as a teaser into my research for you to consider. The book is available worldwide on all Amazon online stores. I would be grateful for your support to review the book and leave comments on Amazon for others to read. Click here to make your comments live on our website. 


On a positive note, I would like for you to support some wonderful projects that have surfaced since my original work in 2010, including the Women in Diplomacy podcast and Women in Foreign Policy. These two organisations are doing an amazing job at supporting women’s engagement and wider awareness of women in the policy-making field, which Grassroot Diplomat fully supports.

As usual, I welcome your thoughts and thank you for letting me vent.

Serving you with love and hope.

Talyn Rahman-Figueroa
CEO, Grassroot Diplomat