Photo by Pavol Zachar

Since last week was marked by International Women’s Day, the messages of gender equality and female empowerment were quite widespread across Europe and beyond and, fortunately, continue to be present in the public discourse. GLOBSEC’s Chief Economist & Head of Programme, Soňa Muzikárová, participated in a discussion series of “Hlboká Online” on the topic of “Women in International Politics”, organised by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic and TASR TV. While presenting the key findings of the recently published Report on Absent Voices: Missing Female Perspectives in CEE, GLOBSEC’s Chief Economist looked at these from a holistic perspective of the European and international standards of electing women in institutional leadership.

The main theme of the discussion was the persistent underrepresentation of female experts in the area of foreign and security policy. While there is a broad consensus on the Slovak Republik having made significant progress in connection to gender equality since becoming a member of the European Union, there is nevertheless a long way to go for the area of diplomacy to be considered truly equal.

The State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, Ingrid Brocková, shed light on the society-wide issue of the so-called “glass ceiling” which has permeated the ways in which women may attain high professional leadership positions. If women empowerment is to be bolstered, the issue cannot be tackled without all hands on deck – of men and women alike.

Consequently, the Chairman of the Slovak National Council’s European Affairs Committee highlighted the fact that Slovakia was, up until recently, one of the lowest-ranging EU Member States in regard to the number of female Permanent Representatives and Ambassadors. In the context of Slovakia having had only one female Foreign Affairs Minister since its official establishment, which was coined as the “hall of shame“, Valášek added that “Slovakia is not sufficiently rich in talent to be able to exclude 90% of women from the diplomatic sphere.”

The dicussion enjoyed inputs from high-level diplomats, namely, the Former US State Secretary, Madeleine Albright, the Secretary-General of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Helga Schmid, and the Former Slovak Prime Minister, Iveta Radičová.

All the panelists agreed that the well-known quote by Madeleine Albright that “there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”, deserves a deal of seriousness and reflection moving forward.

The whole debate may be found on the official website of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic here (in Slovak).