On January 18, women ambassadors, Congresswomen, and other leading ladies in foreign policy celebrated sisterhood and solidarity at an annual dinner organized by Georgetown’s Institute for Women Peace and Security. The event was co-hosted by Secretary Madeleine Albright, Ambassador Melanne Verveer, and Georgetown President Jack DeGioia.
The high-level gathering heralded a consequential moment in time. After a year of women leading change in 2017—beginning with the historic Women’s March on Washington, continuing with record numbers of women running for political office, and ending with the #MeToo movement—the gathering of these powerful Washington women signaled that momentum for women’s rights and equality will continue in 2018.
The 2018 gathering featured eight female ambassadors, many of whom are the first women to serve as ambassadors the United States from their respective countries—including Omani Ambassador Hunanina Sultan Ahmed al Mughairy and Albanian Ambassador Floreta Faber. Other impressive women included Kosovar Ambassador Vlora Çitaku, a former refugee who fled to Macedonia with her sisters, and Rwandan Ambassador Mathilde Mukantabana, a former professor and community organizer of Tutsi origin who lost many family and friends in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. Their work highlights the robust role women have played in peace-building efforts in their respective countries. Both are also the first female representatives of their nations to the U.S.
“I have always found that developing a support group for women is the most important thing. We need each other,” said Secretary Albright at the dinner. “We are better off when we all work together.”
This guidance is perhaps more applicable than ever: The number of women ambassadors to Washington, DC has been steadily dropping since 2013. Today, only 18 women represent their countries as ambassador to the United States, only a few more than served as ambassadors in 1995.
The message in Riggs Library on Thursday evening, however, was resoundingly positive: Women’s leadership is critical to fostering change, and when women leaders collaborate, there is no limit to what they can accomplish.
The evening also counted many women from the media among its guests, including Julia Ioffe of The Atlantic, NBC’s Heidi Przybyla, and Buzzfeed’s Miriam Elder. They are among the growing number of female voices in the media industry, a promising harbinger of progress in another traditionally male-dominated field.
“We all need opportunities to come together to network and to support each other,” said Ambassador Melanne Verveer, executive director of Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace and Security.
Indeed, by convening these influential women from such diverse sectors such as diplomacy, media, think tanks, and non-governmental organizations, the annual dinner was a true testament to the power of sisterhood and comity among women in Washington.
Meredith Forsyth is a Georgetown student and a HeForShe fellow with the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security.