On Tuesday May 16th, PLEN partnered with The Women in Public Service Project at The Wilson Center for the first Daily Diplomacy: A Discussion with Women Ambassadors. The panel discussion featured remarks from Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield and H.E. Ambassador Hassana Alidou and was moderated by Luiza Savage, Editorial Director for Events at POLITICO Live, and Gwen K. Young, Director of the Global Women’s Leadership Initiative and Women in Public Service Project. The discussion was filled with wonderful advice and anecdotes that encouraged young PLEN women and others in the audience to get involved in global policy and add their diverse and collaborative perspectives to an arena that does not always include women leaders.
In her remarks, Gwen K. Young noted that only nine percent of all ambassadors who have represented the United States in foreign countries have been women. Proving that this lack of representation also occurs outside of the United States, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield and H.E.Ambassador Hassana Alidou both shared stories from different points in their careers where they found themselves to be the only women in the room. Despite this, both Ambassadors emphasized that they thrived in using what others saw as drawbacks to their advantage.
When discussing what makes them excel as women leaders, Ambassador Alidou highlighted her emphasis on celebrating her colleagues. “You need to find opportunities to come together,” she said about making sure that every birthday in her office is celebrated. Every month, Ambassador Alidou’s staff meets in her office for cake and a birthday celebration because, she asserted, taking the time to build relationships, communicate, and genuinely care about other people is essential for effective leadership.
Along with working collaboratively and celebrating others, both Ambassadors brought attention to the importance of mentorship. When thinking about mentorship, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield noted that a great mentor doesn’t always have to be someone older than you. “Your best mentors are people who are like you, at your level, and experiencing the same things as you,” she said.
After the panel, the 46 students who attended the Women in Global Policy seminar took Ambassador’s Thomas-Greenfield’s advice about mentorship to heart and practiced their networking skills at an evening reception. The reception also featured a recorded message from Ambassador Swanee Hunt who shared an anecdote that touched on the importance of finding ways to unite people of different backgrounds, even if those ways are unexpected or unconventional.