Female Ambassador Project

Since the first woman joined the United States Foreign Service in 1922, there have been over 400 US female ambassadors. While more women are representing the US abroad than ever before, our progress is far from complete…

Historically, diplomacy has been the preserve of men.

Julia Chang Bloch, former US ambassador to Nepal from 1989 to 1993

What is the female ambassador project?

We interviewed over twenty-five female, former US ambassadors to better understand the woman’s experience in international diplomacy. Our mission is to provide young women considering this career path with real, lived accounts.

Original data bank [1950-2020] compiled by Bovasso, Gardner, and Maglakelidze.To reflect the fact that some country’s have a ChargĂ© d’affaires representative from the U.S. in lieu of an Ambassadorship, women that served as ChargĂ© d’affaires are included in the dataset. Graphic prepared by Willard West.

From 1950 to 2020, we see enormous progress – women are representing the United States as ambassadors on larger proportions of the planet than ever before. Nevertheless, it is important that the momentum is not lost. Women have not served as US Ambassadors in countries such as Russia, China, Germany, and Israel. The most popular destinations for female US ambassadors remain the Federated States of Micronesia and Burundi. In providing information on the history of women in diplomacy, the story of women fighting for representation in the US State Department, and real-lived accounts from former US Ambassadors and high-level national security officials, we hope to encourage young women to pursue their aspired careers in international diplomacy.

The History of Women
in International Diplomacy

While the United States did not start appointing women as ambassadors until the mid-20th century, women have made historical contributions to the field of diplomacy for centuries.

The Fight for Representation

In essence, serving as an ambassador means representing your country. How have women been represented in the US Foreign Service?

The Women & The Career

Meet the exceptional women that contributed to this project and learn about a career in the Foreign Service from their perspectives.

The Lived Experiences

For women in the field of diplomacy, gender can be both a hindrance as well as an asset. Former, female US ambassadors share their experiences on negotiating with foreign leaders and balancing work and family life.

Looking Ahead

How do former US ambassadors make sense of the current state of the State Department? What is their advice to young women considering a career in the foreign service?

Dedications

This project was made possible by the support of American University’s Honors Program. Madelynn Bovasso, Alexia Gardner, and Tina Maglakelidze would also like to thank their wonderful mentor Ambassador Sally Shelton-Colby for her guidance and exceptional efforts in making this possible.

A brief note on gender and language: although the word ‘female’ is often linked to biological sex, we hold that anyone who identifies as a woman and/or female is such. Although there has never been an openly out LGBT woman to hold the rank of the Ambassador, we hope that this project can inspire someone to be the first.