Brazil plans to increase women’s participation in diplomacy

A campaign was launched to bring greater gender balance in the sector

Published in 26/06/2018 - 18:16 By Helena Martins - Brasília

Despite adding up to more than half of Brazil’s population, women make up 23 percent of diplomats at the service of the country. In order to change this reality, the Ministry of Foreign Relations has launched the campaign #MaisMulheresDiplomatas, “More Female Diplomats,” in a bid to promote the discussion on the pursuit of a diplomatic career and encourage women to take part in this field.

The campaign is being conducted exactly a hundred years after the first woman took up a career in Brazilian diplomacy. Maria Rebello Mendes had to stand before a court to request that her application and that of other women were accepted. Since then, strides have been significant, if long in coming.

Brasília - A embaixadora brasileira Maria Luísa Viotti, chefe de gabinete do novo secretário-geral da ONU, Antonio Guterres, concede entrevista à Agência Brasil (José Cruz/Agência Brasil)
Brazilian Ambassador Maria Luiza Viotti, Chef de Cabinet to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres – José Cruz / Agência Brasil

 

From 2007 to 2013 alone, Brazil’s Permanent Mission with the United Nations (UN) was spearheaded for the first time by a woman. More recently, in the period coinciding with Brazil’s latest elective position in the UN Security Council (2012–2013), the post of mission’s representative was also occupied by a woman.

Research

Diplomat Viviane Balbino, head of Brazil’s Foreign Ministry’s Division for International Peace and Security, pointed out that, of the 38 colleagues initiating a diplomatic career with her, only five were female.

“I couldn’t understand why women were so underrepresented, as the posts were available for degree holders in any field, and included a program largely focused on Social Sciences, in which women are more competent—at least when one takes their stereotype into account,” she said.

This led Balbino to research the topic, which resulting in her master’s thesis, published subsequently in book form: Diplomata. Substantivo Comum de Dois Gêneros – um Estudo sobre a Presença das Mulheres na Diplomacia Brasileira (“Diplomat: One Word for Both Genders – a Study on the Presence of Women in Brazilian Diplomacy,” in a literal English translation).

Among the reasons behind gender inequality, Balbino named prejudice and the efforts to keep women away from positions of power, a phenomenon that takes place in many arenas of society, like politics.

Challenges

Despite the progress, challenges remain. Even today, task assignment is often based on gender stereotypes. “As is the case with every ages-old institution, the tendency towards inertia [at the Foreign Ministry] is alarming. That’s why women have been traditionally relegated to jobs linked to administration, the consular field, and even education. To bring an end to that, awareness must be raised,” Viviane Balbino argued.

To ensure balance between genders in Brazil’s main agency of foreign policy, diplomats have formed a women’s collective and encouraged the creation of a Management Committee for Gender and Race, a permanent, consultative agency formed in 2014. Women are now engaged in the campaign. This all serves to show, Balbino said, that women can take important positions in any field, and that this participation is beneficial to the whole of society.

Translation: Fabrício Ferreira -  Edition: Juliana Andrade / Augusto Queiroz

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