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Sweden’s deputy prime minister, Isabella Lövin, published a photograph of herself on Twitter signing a climate bill surrounded by her closest female colleagues, apparently a reference photos of Trump signing bills surrounded by men. Photo: Johan Schiff/Miljöpartiet.

PI: Ann Towns
Main researcher: Birgitta Niklasson

Much if not most of the work diplomats do takes place among national peers, in Ministries of Foreign Affairs (MFAs), embassies and consulates. Our preliminary research suggests that MFAs have been slow to respond to calls for including larger numbers of women, non-discrimination policies and other gender equality intiatives. In some of institutions – such as the Russian MFA – sexual harassment and work place discrimination is rampant (US Embassy Moscow 2008). In others, such as the Swedish MFA, there is no indication that the institution is infused with overt and severe harassment and discrimination, and the institution has worked with gender equality for some time. The 2014 dedication by the Swedish government to a Feminist Foreign Policy has intensified the internal work with gender equality within the ministry. The Swedish MFA may indeed be a “best case,” one of the MFAs most dedicated to gender equality in the world. The main aim of this project is to look closer at this best case, by mapping out and analyzing the gender norms, roles and standard operating procedures of the Swedish MFA and how these have changed over time. The aim is also partially comparative, to compare and contrast the gender dynamics of the Swedish MFA with other foreign ministries. Some of the main questions are:

• Is the Swedish MFA characterized by patterned differences between men and women, in terms of where they are placed in the organization thematically and hierarchically?

• Do career paths develop differently for men and women in the Swedish MFA?

• To what extent are women and men who reach top positions within the MFA externally recruited, e.g. form politics, rather than from within career diplomacy?

• How do female MFA employees challenge and seek to change gender norms and practices, if at all?


Project Grant from the Swedish Research Council 2014-2019 (will be extended 2 years due to parental leave).

“Women and Diplomacy: Gender Norms, Resistance and the Work of the Diplomat”, VR 421-2013-638.

Publications to date

Niklasson, Birgitta and Felicia Robertsson (2017) “The Swedish MFA: Ready to Live Up to Expectations?” in Karin Aggestam and Ann E. Towns, eds. Gendering Diplomacy and International Negotiation. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, pp 65-85.

Page Manager: Webbredaktionen|Last update: 8/31/2018

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