Women in Geopolitics

Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin, Minister of Education Li Andersson, Minister of Finance Katri Kulmuni and Minister of Interior Maria Ohisalo pose after the first meeting of the new government in Helsinki, Finland December 10, 2019.
Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank sitting at an all male table, which needs to change.

Women have every right to be sitting at every table in the world. Then why are there so few women working in geopolitics? It comes down to the classic paradox that is perhaps best illustrated by the Silicon Valley all-male engineer group complex: women may not be embraced by the group of all-male engineers for whatever variety of reasons (perhaps the sole reason is out of intimidation for the presence of women who can do the same job), therefore women are more likely to be ostracized and face career limitations which anyone would logically step away from.

Women continue to face this in many sectors and it’s truly absurd. However, there are strides being taken that are historic and critical moves in the right direction. Last month, Finland elected its first all-female cabinet.

Every nation is concerned about its security and with overlapping interests of many nations, there is much complexity to how geopolitical concerns intersect. With that said, in the case for ensuring that women are best positioned to be contributors to the problem solving capabilities of nations and their vested interests, common themes come up across the global context. For example, parental leave is one of the most relevant topics up for debate. For too many years, this has been up for debate unfortunately.

Just recently, Ivanka Trump spoke to Face the Nation about how the U.S. government has finally implemented a policy for parental leave, which was a bipartisan decision, with support from Nancy Pelosi. Ivanka worked to ensure that Ms. Pelosi’s work was supported by Republicans. As Ivanka stated, “The reality is that the world has changed and it has changed quickly… It is not acceptable in America today, 1 in 4 women come back to work two weeks after having a child.” In terms of the implication for women’s involvement in geopolitics, this is a critical move in the right direction. This policy is laying the groundwork to ensure that we move forward in including women further in geopolitics and facilitating their fair participation.

Women sitting at all politicals tables, being part of decision making processes will be crucial as we move towards furthered global cooperation across nations. Simply put, there are too many problems to solve to take a backwards approach in prohibiting women from entering into these conversations about regional conflicts and options for conflict resolution.

Why do women face so many barriers in geopolitics? It’s a question that spans cultures and history, but it is not insolvable. The first step in ensuring that women can enter into more of these dialogues is by ensuring she feels welcomed at the table. This is easier said than done, but that’s truly the first step. Beyond that, a number of policies need to be put in place to clarify that she has a solidified seat. There is nothing to lose, we will only gain from her participation. It’s time for the world’s nations to truly make those policies a continued reality.

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