International Women's Day: Why We Need More Women in International Relations
March 8 marks one of the most important days of the year: International Women's Day. In a world recently beset by North Korea threatening nuclear war, the coming effects of the sequester and a millennial generation increasingly lost in translation, I think that it’s time we turned to a form of leadership that works: women in power.
Some members of my half of the species are behind some of the biggest international problems in the 21st century: 9/11, Mideast wars, the spread of nuclear weapons, and permanent economic stagnation. In a crisis-ridden world where governments fall one after the next, the political leaderships of Angela Merkel in Germany, Helle Thorning-Schmidt in Denmark, and Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir in Iceland are a testament that women can and will be wise, lasting leaders of successful states in the current turbulence of international political waters.
The politics of ego seem to define men in power, whether it be John Boehner squaring it off with Barack Obama, the personalistic regimes of Mideast dictators, central Asian satraps or the North Korean politics of divinity. This is not to suggest having women in power would not make them less proud to be in the positions they find themselves in, but the approach to politics is decidedly different. Hillary Clinton’s constant travels reveal a hard-working woman with a personal approach to the world, in stark contrast to the realpolitik of Kissinger, Bush, Bolton or Rumsfeld. Even Condoleezza Rice, operating at the height of the neo-conservative years in Washington showed greater diplomatic sophistication than the knights of the Bush round table. Even if women do exhibit better communication skills at international fora, this doesn't mean they’re less tough politically. After all, Margaret Thatcher fought halfway round the world for the Falklands, and Europe still does what Angela Merkel tells it to do.
Women in politics are also going to play important roles in the emerging rearrangement of global power. Dilma Rouseff, who assumed the presidency of Brazil from Lula de Silva, is at the helm of a continental powerhouse that will in the forseeable future be one of the world's power poles. In Australia, Julia Gillard became Prime Minister in 2010, the first woman to hold the office since it was created in 1901; as a first-world economy, Australia's foreign policy under her watch is interesting to watch as all roads gradually begin to lead to China. Finally, to highlight once more that women are a positive force on the world, take Yahoo's new CEO Marissa Mayer, who took the top job on the verge of expecting a child and managing to handle both responsibilities with an envious cool.
The world of the21st century is suffering from economic stagnation, deepening divisions and a painful historical adjustment to Asia returning as its center of gravity. If Iran, North Korea, politics in Washington and a slowing China are an indication, our world is also going to get dangerously radicalized along lines of inequality, religion and politics. Politics of ego continue to dominate the airwaves. It is consequently the political, social and perhaps the civilizing role of women to become a much-needed moderating force in international relations.
The reason women need to step up is straightforward — a male-dominated 21stcentury favours ego over rationalism. If peace and diplomacy are going to prevail over war, women are necessary.