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Missing in analysis: women in foreign policy-making

Smith, Karen E. (2019) Missing in analysis: women in foreign policy-making. Foreign Policy Analysis. ISSN 1743-8586

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Identification Number: 10.1093/fpa/orz019


Before the end of the Cold War, only a few women had ever served as foreign minister anywhere in the world. Since the early 1990s, however, women have frequently served in this capacity, though they are still a minority in foreign policy–making.1 In September 2018, Canada and the European Union cochaired the first ever meeting of female foreign ministers; eighteen of the almost thirty serving female foreign ministers attended, from countries spanning five continents (France24 2018). The growing number of women in the upper echelons of foreign policy–making institutions raises an obvious question: will they make a difference to foreign policy decisions? Anne-Marie Slaughter (2012) argued that more women in top foreign policy jobs “would change the world far more than you think, from giving peace talks a better chance to making us better able to mobilize international coalitions to reordering what issues governments even choose to work on.” Francis Fukuyama (1998, 27) claimed that “a world run by women would follow different rules”: it would be “less aggressive, adventurous, competitive, and violent.” Networks have burgeoned to encourage women to consider or remain in a career in foreign affairs.2 Contemporaneously, Sweden and Canada have declared they will pursue a “feminist foreign policy,” and several states have pursued pro-women norms, such as the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace, and security and increasing women's participation in decision-making (Richey 2001; Hudson and Leidl 2015; Aggestam and Bergman-Rosamond 2016; Davies and True 2017).3 There is, however, very little academic literature on women in foreign policy–making and their impact on foreign policy–making including outcomes. Furthermore, there has been little use of foreign policy analysis (FPA) approaches to try to investigate these questions. FPA opens the “black box” of the state and provides explanations of how and why foreign policy decisions are made, which puts individuals and groups (from committees to ministries) at the center of analysis. Yet the sex of decision-makers has rarely been included as a variable or factor to take into account when analyzing foreign policy–making. Nor, as Anne Marie D'Aoust (2012) notes, has “feminist foreign policy theory” developed within FPA, in contrast to the development of feminist approaches in international relations (see also Achilleos-Sarll 2018). This article first reviews such literature as there is on women and foreign policy–making. Second, it considers why incorporating the sex of decision-makers into FPA is problematic. Third, it advocates “gendering” FPA, which entails taking gender (and not just the sex of decision-makers) into account in the analysis of foreign policy–making (Carver 2003, 288). “Sex” here refers to the biological categories, while “gender” refers to beliefs about the biological categories. “Gendered” institutions and processes reflect the privileging of “masculine” norms over “feminine” norms.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2019 Oxford University Press
Divisions: International Relations
Subjects: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Date Deposited: 29 May 2019 13:39
Last Modified: 24 Jan 2020 00:14

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