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Reader Comment on: “Women in Diplomacy: An Assessment of British Female Ambassadors in Overcoming Gender Hierarchy, 1990-2010”

By Margot Carrington, Una Chapman Cox Sabbatical Fellow/ International Women’s Forum Leadership Foundation Fellow at U. S. Department of State

The article on Women in the British Diplomatic service is very informative and highlights the barriers that exist for women in other diplomatic services, including ours.

I am currently researching this topic as part of a sabbatical research project and have focused a great deal on the importance of work flexibility for women. Another key aspect is the provision of options to scale back work at various time in one’s career in response to major life events such as the birth of a child. Eldercare is a growing problem as those responsibilities (to care for elderly parents) often fall disproportionally on women.

Those interested in this want to look into what Deloitte has done with the Mass Career Customization — a system for accommodating non-linear career paths that tries to ensure that those who scale back are not penalized for doing so. It also offers women the opportunity to express an interest in scaling up (often surprising managers who assumed that women, often for family reasons, will not want to take on more responsibilities). This helps eliminate another pervasive obstacle to women’s advancement. Other barriers include the paucity of sponsors willing to expend political capital to ensure women advance (something male sponsors readily do for male colleagues).

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