Jun 13, 2021 - World

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield on being the only woman in the room

headshot

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., has argued over her 39-year diplomatic career that educating and empowering women and girls is an investment in peace and security for their nations.

  • "I will always push for women to be part of negotiation teams," she told me in the State Department Treaty Room, during an interview for "Axios on HBO."
  • "I notice ... when they're not in the room. ... Sometimes I'm the only one," she added with a laugh. "And I will call it out."

The ambassador, who rose as a career foreign-service officer to become Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Africa, told me this story about walking into an overseas room with no other women:

  • " I raised that ... before the head of state came in. And the men laughed."
  • Then she had a word with the president — and it was different the next time.

The big picture: "When I walked into the State Department in 1982, there were very few people who look like me," the ambassador added. "There were even very few women in senior positions. And we were dealing with a system that didn't necessarily appreciate the diversity that a woman and a person of color would bring to the table."

  • "I think that has significantly changed," she added. "We still have some challenges. It's not yet perfect."
  • "I would hope that young people who see me — who are Black, who are women, who are people of color — will see me as an example for what they could achieve. And I'm hoping that I can use my voice and my presence to give them a reason to be hopeful."

Go deeper: In the video clip below, the ambassador describes her worldwide adventures with "gumbo diplomacy."

Go deeper