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Gender, International Status, and Ambassador Appointments

Journal article
Authors Ann Towns
Birgitta Niklasson
Published in Foreign Policy Analysis
Volume 13
Issue 3
Pages 521–540
ISSN 1743-8586
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Political Science
Pages 521–540
Language en
Keywords gender, international hierarchy, international status, ambassadors, ambassador appointments
Subject categories Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)


Focusing on ambassador appointments, the aim of this pioneering article is to address some fundamental questions about where men and women are positioned in diplomacy. Most of the gender-related diplomacy studies are limited to individual Ministry of Foreign Affairs and say little about diplomacy as an aggregate set of practices. We draw on theories of gender and positional status to ask whether there are gender patterns in ambassador appointments—with men occupying positions of higher military and economic status than women—much like the ones found in other institutions. Our analyses are based on a unique data set containing almost 7,000 ambassador appointments, made by the fifty highest ranked countries in terms of GDP in 2014. The results show that female ambassadors are less likely to occupy high-status ambassadorships than men. In short, gender patterns, linked to power and status, are present also in ambassador appointments. Diplomacy studies need to do much more to address the presence and impact of gender in international affairs.

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