Women and US foreign policy |

Jolynn Shoemaker

Jolynn Shoemaker



This is a transcript of an interview Matthew Alan Hill conducted with Jolynn Shoemaker for the Women and US Foreign Policy Interview Project at The Institute for the Study of the Americas, University of London.

Interviewee: Jolynn Shoemaker (JS)

Employment positions referred to in interview: Director of Women in International Security (2006-Present day) Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS); International Law and Policy Officer at the Institute for Inclusive Security, Hunt Alternatives Fund (2003-2006); Country (Eurasia) Director in the Department of Defense, International Security Policy (2002-2003); Regional Advisor for Southern and East Africa at the Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, (2000-2002); Attorney in Department of Defense, General Counsel’s Office for International Affairs (2000-2002).

Interviewer: Matthew Alan Hill (MH)

Date: July 28, 2011

Location: Washington, D.C., USA

Website profile: http://csis.org/expert/jolynn-shoemaker


General questions about your career [00:21 14:31]

No family background in foreign affairs; interested in foreign affairs related biographies and autobiographies, particularly women; meeting people whilst working for Women in International Security; interest in Madeleine Albright and Michèle Flournoy; college courses in international issues and human security; interest in hard security and other issues such as democracy; raises whether gendered female identity means attraction to issues such as famine; not treated in government different due to being a female; advancement in military due to meritocracy; needing to prove oneself in a military environment not based on gender; military vocabulary different to State Department.

Non-gender specific issues and events you were involved in during your FP-related career [14:32 21:16]

Working as an attorney in the Defense Department’s international counter proliferation programme; being judged by Ukrainian officials due to gender; explaining legal language to Defense Department officials.

Experiences and knowledge of US engagement with gender issues in foreign policy [21:17 – 1:03:59]

Explaining UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security to the D.C. foreign policy community; exclusion of women in the formal peace-making scene; resistance in the US government in recognising the role of women-focused NGOs in peace processes and to supporting UNSCR 1325; difficulty proving the benefits of increased engagement of women in formal peace-making; Secretary Clinton pushing the importance of gender equality within US foreign policy; difficulties of adding extra portfolios such as gender to the working level of government departments such as in Afghanistan and Iraq; human trafficking included as an additional element to State Department to Congressional human rights reports; US government personnel working on the ground understanding importance of engaging women in the peace process; increasing recognition in US government of engaging women in peace processes; importance in persuading national governments of the importance of gender equality; importance of engaging in dialogue not dictation with foreign governments; ad hoc nature of US government and UN personnel engaging with gender equality; importance of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) for women and gender issues at State Department; need for US government to move women and gender issues away from a  single issue based office towards the regional offices; relegation of gender based issues among ‘powerful’ US government stakeholders compared to other national interests; discusses impact of inclusive constitution writing process and development of national security strategies; difficulties of integrating gender-focussed issues into the mainstream; inability of UNSCR 1325 to be fully implemented unless desired; hesitancy among women in US government to link collaborative and consensus leadership skills with female gender; discusses evidence that suggests consensus leadership is a female gender issue; pressure on high ranking women in US government to alter behaviour to fit ‘dominant cultures’ that do not include this range of leadership skills; difference in structure of all-female meetings within Defense Department; structural and cultural changes required in US government; importance of women employees mentoring other women employees in US foreign policy establishment.

Views on recent US foreign policy related issues [1:04:00 1:13:32]

Inability of foreign policy experts in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) not predicting the Arab Spring/ Awakening; importance of sub-state and non-state actors in the Arab Spring; national interests ensure that US will deal with ‘unsavoury characters’; difficulty of supporting democracy in the MENA region when US national interests are involved; disconnection of security in US foreign policy to development and democracy.

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