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Moving Beyond Stereotypes: A Discussion Honoring International Women's Day

International Women's Day

In honour of International Women's Day on 8 March 2014, the IAEA hosted a moderated discussion to reflect on the experiences of men working for strong, influential women. The panel featured included the following speakers: Ambassador Cho Hyun, Resident Representative of the Republic of Korea; Ambassador Joseph E. Macmanus, Resident Representative of the United States of America; Ambassador Tebogo Joseph Seokolo, Resident Representative of the Republic of South Africa; and Ambassador Laércio Antonio Vinhas, Resident Representative of the Federative Republic of Brazil. Moderating the discussion was Ms. Janice Dunn Lee, IAEA Deputy Director General for Management. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

In honour of International Women's Day on 8 March 2014, the IAEA hosted a discussion on the experience of men working for strong, influential women. The panel, moderated by Ms. Janice Dunn Lee, IAEA Deputy Director General for Management, featured four male ambassadors from four different geographic regions, all with experience working for women in high-profile positions. Each of these women - Park Geun-Hye, Hillary Clinton, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Dilma Rousseff - in her own way represents the recent changes and new opportunities for women in the workplace.

The distinguished panelists were Ambassador Cho Hyun, Resident Representative of the Republic of Korea; Ambassador Joseph E. Macmanus, Resident Representative of the United States of America; Ambassador Tebogo Joseph Seokolo, Resident Representative of the Republic of South Africa; and Ambassador Laércio Antonio Vinhas, Resident Representative of the Federative Republic of Brazil.

In an opening statement, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano reiterated his ongoing support of measures aimed at encouraging women to pursue careers in science and to seek high-level leadership roles within the IAEA and globally. He also shared his own experience of reporting to the first female ambassador in the Japanese foreign ministry.

The panelists told their own stories, reflecting on their experience working for or with women in high level positions or in non-traditional roles. On the subject of equal opportunities, Ambassador Vinhas described the promising changes in Brazil: "[Today's] society accepts without problem the candidature and election of a woman," he pointed out, as was evidenced by the election of Mrs. Dilma Rousseff as President of Brazil in 2010.

The panelists were optimistic about the continued advancement of women. However, they also recognized that obstacles remain. Ambassador Cho pointed to the need to manage the demands of work and family. Ambassador Macmanus emphasized the need to "get beyond a role," as well as the need for both men and women to work toward eliminating negative stereotypes about women in the workplace. He recommended that women focus on their own individual leadership style, stating that "your leadership... your involvement in the world is always going to be best when it is in fact a full expression of who you are in every respect." Ambassador Cho reiterated the need for gender neutrality in the debate about what makes a good leader.

South African Ambassador Seokolo, who has served under two female Ministers of Foreign Affairs, emphasized the "need to transform gender relations." He described how this became apparent during his country's recent transition, with its impact on the advancement of equality for women.

In her role as the panel moderator, Ms. Dunn Lee steered the discussion by posing questions to the Ambassadors and inviting the audience to do the same.

Every year, International Women's Day provides an opportunity to reflect on the progress made by women around the world and to call for further change. The panel discussion hosted by the IAEA this year highlighted the place for a continuing dialogue aimed at moving beyond stereotypes and fostering the inclusion of women - at all levels - in today's workforce.


- By Omar Yusuf, IAEA Office of Public Information and Communication

(Note to Media: We encourage you to republish these stories and kindly request attribution to the IAEA)