Speaker: Ms Michele Woonacott, US Vice Consul for Political and Economic Affairs, US Consulate General, Melbourne
Historically, the field of diplomacy has been a male-dominated occupation. Previously barred in some countries from working once married or after having children, women have had to overcome a multitude of archaic legal restrictions in order to realise the same opportunities afforded to their male counterparts.
Today, we find ourselves in the midst of a gender revolution. Women can now be found in the highest of diplomatic positions, from Consul General to Ambassador, Chargé d’Affaires to Minister of Foreign Affairs. Leaders such as Federica Mogherini of the European Union, Sushma Swaraj of India, Margot Wallstrӧm of Sweden, Hillary Clinton of the United States, and Julie Bishop of Australia barely touch the surface of this rapid change in the balance of power.
Furthermore, with greater female representation in diplomatic circles, the foreign policies of states are also experiencing a re-think. Gender equality and advancing women’s rights have taken on a new significance concerning the provision of foreign aid, economic growth, and even the use of force. Sweden has gone as far as to declare an explicitly feminist foreign policy – placing gender inequality at the forefront of their policy formulation. But what will this mean in practice? And what restrictions remain for women seeking careers in diplomacy?
To celebrate International Women’s Day, AIIA Victoria’s Young Professionals Forum (YPF) is delighted to welcome US Vice Consul Michele Woonacott to discuss her personal experiences, the recent history of women in diplomacy and the gender equality work carried out in the region by the US State Department.
Michele Woonacott is the Vice Consul for Political and Economic Affairs at the US Consulate General in Melbourne. Previously, she was a Consular Officer at the US Embassy in the Dominican Republic. Michele is a recognized leader in economic development and public policy, having spent more than 15 years working in these fields in her home state of California. Immediately prior to joining the State Department, she headed up government relations for the California Small Business Development Center network. Earlier, she was district director for U.S. Representative John Garamendi, and she worked for Mr. Garamendi during his tenure as Lieutenant Governor of California, where she was director of the California Commission for Economic Development. Michele holds an M.A. in International Relations from the George Washington University and a B.A. from the University of Southern California.
YPF event – all welcome!