WIIS President, Chantal De Jonge Oudraat, Honored as Gender Champion at The Future of US Nuclear Policy Ploughshares Conference

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday, November 14, WIIS President Chantal de Jonge Oudraat was honored as a Gender Champion at the annual Ploughshares Fund conference on nuclear policy.

Program Assistants Sarah and Nadia with former WIIS President, Ambassador Laura Holgate

The concluding presentation at the 2018 Ploughshares Fund Conference, “The Future of US Nuclear Policy,”was titled “Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy.” Ploughshares Program Director Michelle Dover introduced Ambassador Laura HolgateAmbassador Pamela Hamamoto, and Nuclear Threat Initiative CEO Dr. Ernest Moniz.

Ambassador Hamamoto launched the International Gender Champions Initiative in 2015. The International Gender Champions initiative facilitates a global network of high-level female and male decision-makers committed to breaking down gender barriers. Three years in, this project boasts over 200 champions span key UN hubs such as New York, Geneva, and the Hauge. These Champions promise to make gender equality a reality in their spheres of influence by making SMART pledges, i.e. SMART Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound commitments.

Why is this initiative important?

Ambassador Holgate, who kicked off the panel, provided some insight on this question for the conference attendees. Like many other fields, the nuclear policy space still faces challenges in hiring, promoting, and retaining women. Women struggle to re-enter this field, face pay gaps, and their work is judged as differential in value.  Holgate lamented, “There is a leaky pipeline from the legions of young women who come out of bachelor’s and master’s programs who are eager to contribute to the naughty challenges of the nuclear policy space, and between those and top leadership spaces. We see a diminution.” This diminution is evident in all-male panels, articles that only cite male scholars, and the number of women who leave the field not making leadership positions or tenure. “Men are necessary allies to address such structural issues,” Holgate concluded.

Ambassador Hamamoto, Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva from 2014-2017, began her comments with a reflection on the pervasive nature of gender inequality. From the start of her post to the UN, Hamamoto recalls that “across the board, I was confronted by the harmful effects of gender inequality everywhere I turned,” in both developed and developing nations. She pledged to make gender issues a top priority while she had this platform. Geneva provided her with a unique community of state representatives and civil society organizations to make progress on this commitment.

Hamamoto teamed up with Michael Møller, Director General of the UN in Geneva, and started to gather requests for personal commitments from heads of organizations about what they’d do to increase gender inequality, both as leaders and in their programmatic work. Personal commitments, she explains, empowered multiple layers of these organizations. Gender focal points, which had historically been tucked away in back corners of organizations fighting for recognition, all of the sudden were empowered because they had direct access to the most senior person in the organization united around a common goal: how can we raise women’s voices and increase representation.

In addition to leaders making public pledges for their organizations, the International Gender Champions initiative asks members to take a Panel Parity Pledge. In so doing, these leaders refuse to speak on all-male panels or all-female panels. This commitment promotes gender equality and gives women an opportunity to showcase their expertise.

Ambassador Holgate asked Dr. Moniz why it matters to the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) and for him as a leader to incorporate women in the nuclear field. Dr. Moniz stated that NTI has prioritized female leadership from its founding days. At the organization’s start, many of the senior officers were women, a tradition that the think tank has proudly sustained. On the basis of programmatic important, professional quality, and capability, NTI has appointed four female VPs, three new female board members, and selected a female for their first distinguished fellow within the last year and a half alone. In response to why gender equality matters to him as a leader, Mr. Moniz stated rather nonchalantly that it’s simply the right thing to do. Moreover, it’s “what we need to do to have the talent we need to manage these frankly existential threats.” When serving as the US Secretary of Energy, Moniz oversaw the creation of a Women in Clean Energy Initiative with the Department of Energy. This project has now grown to multiple countries and proven to be of great inspiration to younger women to come into the field.

In closing, Michelle recognized 31 new Gender Champions who were called to stand and receive applause. Senior Program Assistant Nadia Creve Coeur accepted recognition on behalf Chantal, who was away on travel for the Paris Peace Forum. At the Paris Peace Forum, the Gender Champions Initiative was selected as one of the top 10 projects presented and will receive support from the Forum for the coming year.

Chantal has made the following pledges for WIIS:

  • Commit to organizing policy roundtables that include panelists of various ethnicities, gender minorities, religions, places of origin, and political ideologies.
  • Commit to adding a gender analysis to the most pressing security issues in any publication, event, or speech.
  • Commit to expanding membership to include ethnicity, gender minorities, religion, origin, and political ideology. WIIS will do so by inviting organizations that WIIS does not traditionally partner with to events or programs. To assess the demographics of our membership, WIIS will include an optional race or origin form on each member profile’s page. At the end of each fiscal year, WIIS will assess our membership demographics internally.

You can learn more about Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy here, and the goals set out by individual champions here. Stay up to date with progress on these pledges by following “Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy” on Twitter @gcnuclearpolicy.

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