More female diplomats in the world today
The United Nations has designated 24 June as International Day of Women in Diplomacy. A new dataset was recently published that documents the share of women and men among the world’s ambassadors. The research programme Gender in Diplomacy (GenDip) at the University of Gothenburg has developed the dataset, which will enable entirely new types of analyses.
The new GenDip Dataset on Gender and Diplomatic Representation maps all bilateral ambassadors in the world posted between 1968 and 2021 and the share of women and men in this group – something that has been missing in the past. In total, the dataset contains 89,263 ambassador postings from 222 current and former countries.
“I am pleased that we can now make such basic information as the gender of ambassadors available through this dataset. Gender and diplomacy is a growing field of research and more and more people are interested in gender-related questions. For example, the UN has designated 24 June as International Day of Women in Diplomacy to highlight that women are still under-represented in diplomacy,” says Ann Towns, Professor of Political Science and Director of GenDip.
The share of female ambassadors in the world has risen slowly from 0.9 per cent in 1968 to 21 per cent in 2021, but the figure varies regionally and between countries. In 1968, no region appointed more than 2 per cent women to ambassador postings, and only 22 out of 127 countries appointed female ambassadors at all. In 2021, regional differences were greater; for instance, 41 per cent of ambassadors posted abroad by the Nordic countries were female, compared with 12 per cent by countries in the Middle East.
Regional averages, however, can obscure variations between individual states.
“Although there were few female ambassadors on average from African countries in 1968, 20 per cent of Guinea’s ambassadors were women, the highest proportion of women in the world at that time.”
In 2021, very small states are top appointers of female ambassadors: 100 percent of Nauru’s postings were of women, Liechtenstein posted 80 per cent, and Saint Kitts and Nevis, Jamaica and Grenada all appointed over 60 per cent women. Sweden appointed 47 per cent female ambassadors that same year.
Gender plays a role in international relations
The new dataset enables studies of why some states appoint more female diplomats than others, and what happens in diplomatic interactions when there are more women involved.
“Diplomatic missions are used as a measure of international recognition and status. By making women visible in diplomacy, we show that gender plays an important role in states’ quest for status,” says Ann Towns.
- The new database is free for anyone to use and can be downloaded from GenDip’s website. The website also offers a codebook and a visualisation tool: https://www.gu.se/en/gendip/the-gendip-dataset-on-gender-and-diplomatic-representation
- Appointments of female ambassadors by country in 1968, 1998, 2019 and 2021: https://www.gu.se/sites/default/files/2023-06/GenDip_Database_Ranking_fact_sheet.pdf
- More information about the UN’s International Day of Women in Diplomacy on 24 June: Women in Diplomacy | United Nations