UK ambassador to Luxembourg John Marshall talks about the female role models who have changed his life and what the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is doing to create more female role models within the organisation.
I don’t think I could identify a single individual as my “greatest female role model”. I have been inspired by many women, both those I have met (e.g. Edna Adan, who established a Maternity Hospital in Hargeisa and was also Somaliland’s Foreign Minister) and those I haven’t (the athlete Paula Radcliffe) as well as historical figures (such as the war-time nurse Edith Cavell), fictional figures (Lisa from The Simpsons) and friends and family members (my Mum!).
I am pleased to say that the UK Government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), for which I work, is putting a lot of effort into ensuring that there are more female role models within our organisation than there used to be.
As in many organisations women have been under-represented in senior roles in the FCO. It was not until the 1970s, after centuries of diplomacy, that a woman was appointed an ambassador. And the first mother to be appointed an ambassador only happened in 2000. Nowadays, women make up about 30% of our senior management, so we are making progress. But there is still a long way to go. And there are still many roles in the Foreign Office that have never been done by a woman, including Permanent Under-Secretary (the head of the FCO) and the ambassadors to Paris, Berlin and Washington.
So, in a corridor of the FCO in London we have installed a Mirror Challenge looking at the top jobs in the Office which have never been done by a woman. Each of these is represented by a mirror, encouraging people to see themselves in the top jobs. And the first time a role is done by a woman in the future, the mirror is replaced by their picture.
Last year Karen Pierce was appointed to be our first ever female Permanent Representative to the United Nations. With the UK a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council, it is a very high profile job and one that she does brilliantly. One by one the mirrors will be replaced by pictures and the FCO will be a better place for it.
UK ambassador to Luxembourg John Marshall is pictured outside the embassy where a purple banner hangs. Purple is the emblematic colour for International Women's Day. Photo: UK embassy in Luxembourg.
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