An article by Ayu Kusumastuti

Is the profession of diplomacy genderless?

How does gender socialization contribute to women’s diplomatic participation in post-authoritarian Indonesia?

Inviting Wendy Prajuli, a doctoral candidate from the Institute of Asian and African Studies at Humboldt University in Berlin, to lead a guest seminar discussion on these intriguing questions was the impulse for this August discussion. This discussion, moderated by Amirah Kaca, a doctoral researcher at the University of Oxford Department of Public Policy and a member of the feminism and development cluster at Doctrine UK, focuses on how gender socialization can increase women’s representation and participation in the field of international relations, based on his article in the journal titled How gender socialization is improving women’s representation in Indonesia’s Foreign affairs: breaking the ceiling: Australian Journal of International Affairs: Vol 75, No 5 (

Wendy began his presentation by discussing the historical context of the gender-mainstreaming program as a presidential instruction affecting women’s representation in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia in 2000. The outputs shaped by the gender mainstreaming program, both from presidential instruction and internal regulation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia, provide an increasing number of women positioned as diplomats. However, they do not necessarily indicate success against the criteria of women’s roles as director-general, director, or Indonesian ambassador, where the number of men is significantly higher than women.

His research methodology is based on an empirical study conducted in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia to identify the factors and constraints of the gender-mainstreaming program from 2015 to 2021, as well as interviews with female diplomats and young adults aspiring to become diplomats.

There are still biases and stereotypes against women in the field of foreign affairs, where it is assumed that women cannot think strategically or manage crises. Therefore, women diplomats are typically assigned to countries with a relatively high gender equality index, such as the Nordic countries. In addition, male diplomats and ambassadors are typically assigned to powerful and strategic nations, such as Japan, France, the United Kingdom, and conflicted nations.

Foreign affairs are still considered a man’s business, and women tend to be passive when discussing international affairs or expanding their knowledge. The dominant influence on this condition is patriarchy. Since it was assumed that there was always a root of gender inequality between men and women, patriarchy became firmly embedded in everyday gender differences. For example, in the case of the study, ambassadorship is a political negotiation that engages with patriarchal culture. These factors make it more challenging for women to obtain career opportunities.

Due to the patriarchal system that produces women’s biases and stereotypes in foreign affairs, women believe that participation in this field is not essential for them. Therefore, they are typically unwilling to increase their understanding of this field, which makes it more challenging to find qualified female candidates in international diplomacy affairs. Moreover, women’s competence in international affairs has already been questioned.

On the other hand, it has been discussed that non-patriarchal gender socialization in the family can increase women’s public roles as diplomats, based on interviews with female diplomats. Young women who aspire to become diplomats agree that the diplomat profession is genderless. In the field of foreign affairs, however, positions such as director-general, director, and ambassador are dominated by men.

Wendy added that non-patriarchal gender socialization is crucial for the development of an equal relationship between men and women in Indonesia. The reinterpretation of “foreign policy begins at home” indicates that patriarchal or non-patriarchal foreign policy begins with gender socialization at home.

This discussion stimulated five people to respond to Wendy’s argument. Umi reflected on women’s double burden in both public and private spheres and urged non-patriarchal gender socialization in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The equality of opportunity for women has been achieved, but it will take time to achieve equality of outcome, according to Tyok. Irma responded that the family is the only institution supporting women’s public participation when the state or other institutions do not. Amirah questioned the incompleteness of the gender socialization agenda in Indonesia, and Eva inquired about gender deconstruction training at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Wendy confirmed that women in the Foreign Affairs Department continue to bear a double burden. For instance, due to the lengthy training hours, female diplomats who must also perform domestic duties choose not to participate in a particular training. On the other hand, gender budgeting must be taken seriously to avoid a partial pro-gender budgeting understanding in the foreign affairs ministry. It needs support from both the state and society to eradicate patriarchal culture and socialize non-patriarchal gender norms to provide gender-inclusive space. It was agreed that gender participation in the public sphere could not be measured quantitatively. Further, the patriarchal and masculine agenda underlying women’s symbolic representation must be unpacked in complete depth.

Amirah concluded that women’s opportunity equality exists in the Indonesian bureaucracy today. Nonetheless, women’s obstacles, such as double burden, bias, and stereotypes, continue to exist and limit their public participation. The intervention must begin at home with non-patriarchal gender socialization.



This article is an organizational knowledge asset with DOCTRINE UK’s registration number No. 2023-09-19-Articles. Doctrine UK is not responsible for the views expressed in the article; such views are the author’s sole responsibility.