Invisible while visible: an Australian perspective on queer women leaders in international affairs

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In among the silencing and invisibility of their stories, queer women operate as critical leaders in international affairs. They face multiple marginalisations: (1) challenging the archetypical diplomat or security leader as a heteronormative (white) male; and (2) operating in different cultural contexts with varying negative attitudes towards women in power and homosexuality in general. Providing both empirical and theoretical contributions to the fields of diplomacy, feminist and queer theory, this article gains unique access to Australian lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse, and intersex diplomats and attachés to understand: what are the experiences of queer woman leaders in international affairs? Key messages Queer women experience deep exclusion in diplomacy, often ‘invisible’ despite their highly visible roles. Even if not queer, women diplomats are often typified to be queer, which is emblematic of othering. Diplomatic privilege protects queer women, providing opportunities to work in contentious spaces. Women with wives may be best able to perform the ‘dual roles’ of diplomacy but challenges remain. </ul

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Women are demonstrably under-represented at senior levels in Australia's international affairs. Empirical evidence shows a continuing gender imbalance in leadership positions, including in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of Defence and academia. Two explanations commonly offered are that women are less motivated or lack interest in ‘hard’ international relations. These explanations are found to be unconvincing, given studies showing similar levels of ambition and interest at recruitment. Four alternative explanations are offered to account for the scarcity of female leaders in Australia's international affairs: the legacy of direct discrimination, continued indirect discrimination, inadequate support for women who balance work and family responsibilities, and socially constructed gender norms. Instead of the subject matter of international relations being too ‘hard’, or inherently masculine, it appears that it is the combined impact of these factors that has made it ‘hard’, or difficult, for women to progress to senior levels. In order to show how these barriers can be overcome, three case studies are presented of women who have achieved senior positions: Professor Emeritus Helen Hughes, Her Excellency Ms Penny Wensley and Professor Hilary Charlesworth. These examples suggest strategies that women can use to further their careers and measures that can be implemented in workplaces to improve the representation of senior women in Australia's international affairs.
Research Highlights and Abstract The study of gender, sexuality—and, in particular, queer theory—is central to the social sciences and humanities. Our analysis of citation practices shows that queer theorist Judith Butler is one of the most cited social theorists of all time. Yet political science remains distinctly untroubled by queer theory, and gender and sexuality are frequently treated as marginal (not central) concerns. We argue that queer theory has much to offer political science, not only by highlighting the importance of sexuality and the body but also in analysing ‘power’ and in politicising ‘the political’ itself. We suggest that the ‘queering’ of political science is long overdue, not least through politicising processes of knowledge-production in the discipline. There is something queer (by which we mean strange) going on in the scholarly practice of political science. Why are political science scholars continuing to disregard issues of gender and sexuality—and in particular queer theory—in their lecture theatres, seminar rooms, textbooks, and journal articles? Such everyday issues around common human experience are considered by other social scientists to be central to the practice and theory of social relations. In this article we discuss how these commonplace issues are being written out of (or, more accurately, have never been written in to) contemporary political science. First, we present and discuss our findings on citation practice in order to evidence the queerness of what does and does not get cited in political science scholarship. We then go on to critique this practice before suggesting a broader agenda for the analysis of the political based on a queer theoretical approach.
Purpose – Theorizing that was conceived in the 1970s about gendered processes in organizations helped explain gender inequalities in organizations. This article aims to take the opportunity to re‐examine these processes – including the gendered substructure of organizations, gendered subtext, the gendered logic of organization and the abstract worker from the perspective of the original author in a present‐day context. Design/methodology/approach – A reflexive approach was used to consider how gender theorizing itself has become more complex as captured in the notion of intersectionality when gender process interacts with other forms of inequality. Findings – The key finding is the persistence of inequality regimes despite organizational changes, which still make developments in theorizing gender processes relevant. Originality/value – This article is an opportunity to reflect on the conceptualization and development of one's theorizing over three decades, which has suggested that there are still key questions that demand answers from academics and practitioners who want to challenge these inequality regimes.
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