Takeaways from UNA-USA Pasadena Event — International Day of Women Celebration: Supporting Women in Global Leadership
I was struck by the scale and impact of the international projects and diplomacy led by Ms. Reddick and Ms. Lwin; I think their success in creating and directing international programs that would have, until recent decades, been unthinkable illustrates the indispensability of diversity in international relations. For the creation of a world for all, all voices need to contribute, and women have historically been underrepresented in government.
Both Ms. Reddick’s achievement of becoming an ambassador during her foreign service career and Ms. Lwin’s leadership at UNDP and Women in Leadership Retreats speak for themselves, but both mentioned the struggles with sexism they encountered on their journey to success. Ms. Lwin described the early career of many women working in the international field as “sink or swim.” Even in work environments purporting to be committed to gender equality, Ms. Lwin and Mr. Reddick reflected on their struggles as women. I think we often perceive the concept of impact versus intent as very abstract, but both speakers mentioned the concrete experience of being silenced in diplomatic meetings.
Ms. Reddick and Ms. Lwin both rose out of this suppression and have now lead international programs to bridge the gender divide. I think Ms. Reddick’s and Ms. Lwin’s thoughts on fixing gender inequality in international relations demonstrate the profound issues with our current system; in all societal problems, the responsibility should not fall with the suppressed, but Ms. Reddick and Ms. Lwin understood from their own experience that women must take individual initiative to succeed. To prepare women for an often toxic work culture, the two speakers emphasized the importance of internship opportunities at a young age and global programs in college to allow women to build confidence.
Hearing all voices is incredibly important, and this event has made me reflect on the gender dynamic in many of my courses. I realized the same suppression applies to many of my classrooms; even if not immediately noticeable, this silencing has a major impact over years of school. To create a more equal global culture, we need to focus on the workplace itself but also the origin of many oppressive habits, education.