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The Gendered Networking of Diplomats

Journal article
Authors Birgitta Niklasson
Published in The Hague Journal of Diplomacy
Volume 15
Issue 1-2
Pages 13-42
ISSN 1871-1901
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Political Science
Pages 13-42
Language en
Keywords contacts; tokens; homosociality; gender equality; Sweden; ministry for foreign affairs (MFA)
Subject categories Public Administration Studies, Gender Studies


The aim of this study is to contribute to a deeper understanding of the gendered condi- tions under which diplomats network. We still have limited knowledge of how female diplomats network when serving abroad in strongly male-dominated contexts. To what extent do they experience token tendencies (visibility, assimilation and contrast) and how are these tendencies perceived to affect their access to important contacts? Based on 28 interviews with diplomats and civil servants from the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA), this study compares how female and male diplomats are expected and perceived to network. The results indicate that the greater visibility of female diplomats makes them assimilate to a stereotypical gender role that closely resembles that of diplomatic wives. Women thus legitimise their presence in the MFA and make it less intrusive. Still, they experience contrast in silent resistance and con- stant reminders of their presence in a gender-inappropriate profession.

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