(Front, L-R) Amb. Minda Calaguian-Cruz and Amb. Ma. Angelina Sta. Catalina. (Back, L-R) Ms. Zhou Suli (Embassy of Singapore), Ms. Jeanie Duwon (US Embassy); Ms. Celeste Vinzon-Balatbat (FSI); Asst. Sec. Junever Mahilum-West (DFA ASEAN), and Ms. Zeenat Syed (US Embassy).

Women diplomats from the Philippine foreign service and selected Embassies in Manila shared their views on asserting gender equality in the diplomatic workplace as they joined the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) in its celebration of Women’s Month.

FSI, in partnership with the US Embassy in Manila, gathered together these diplomats in its Mabini Dialogue Series on 21 March to discuss “Women Power in the Diplomatic Stage: Emerging, Evolving, Enabling, Excelling.”

The panelists were retired Amb. Maria Angelina Sta. Catalina; retired Ambassador Minda Calaguian-Cruz; Assistant Secretary Junever Mahilum-West of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Office of ASEAN Affairs; Deputy Chief of Mission and Counselor of the Embassy of Singapore in Manila Zhou Suli, and Deputy Economic Counselor of the Embassy of the United States of America in Manila, Zeenat Syed.

The Mabini Dialogue is a regular discussion forum offered by FSI for exchanges among experts on important national and international issues.

The diplomats highlighted the rich contributions of women in the foreign service through their unique brand of creativity and intelligence. But they also talked about the continuing challenges in gender equality in the diplomatic workplace.

For example, they said, stereotypical gender roles in diplomacy still persisted, and they continue to be deprived of opportunities in consideration of their presumed multi-tasking roles as a diplomat and mother and/or housewife.

These diplomats were united in emphasizing the need to address such challenges to promote and ensure gender balance in the foreign service.

Furthermore, they recommended increased discussions in gender relations in diplomacy, development of pro-family work policies, and addressing the issue of multi-tasking among female diplomats to strengthen women’s participation in the foreign service.

It was consistently stressed during the forum that gender equality in the foreign service should reflect intentional cooperation in pursuit of shared goals, rather than gender competition.

Officials and staff of the DFA and FSI, representatives from various government agencies, and members of the diplomatic corps attended the Mabini Dialogue.