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Leigh Turner

Ambassador to Austria and UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Vienna

Part of Speakers' Corner

7th March 2012

Ambassadors in high heels heading your way?

Photo by FT.com
Juliet Campbell, British ambassador to Luxembourg 1988-91

This time last year I published a blog, Ambassadors in high heels, drawing attention to the importance of female diplomats both as high-impact top performers and as role models. This recorded the excellent tale of our then ambassador in Baku, Carolyn Browne, discussing with upwardly-mobile female diplomats in Azerbaijan the potential conflict between looking one’s best in fashionably high heels and feeling comfortable working long hours in a busy office.

During my time in Kyiv, which is regrettably drawing to a close in July after an extended four-year posting, I have been delighted to have worked with a number of outstanding woman ambassadors from around the world based in Ukraine. All are, in my view, excellent role models either for aspiring diplomats or anyone else. The past four years have also seen the number of EU member states represented by women in Kyiv increase from zero to four. Meanwhile the number of British female heads of mission around the world has risen to an all-time high of 38 compared with 18 five years ago. Several of them blog – see eg Sian MacLeod in the Czech Republic; Julie Chappell  in Guatemala (including a fine blog on Advanced high heels); Judith Macgregor in Mexico; Jennifer Anderson in Botswana; and Marianne Young in Namibia. You can find a list of all FCO bloggers round the world, male and female, on the main FCO blogs page.

Since my blog last year was a bit long and not everyone may have read to the end, I should also draw attention again to the excellent report, produced in 1999 and available on-line, on “Women in [British] diplomacy, 1782-1999”. Highlights include a section on the debate around the possible admission of women to the Diplomatic and Consular service in 1933 (page 7) and a “selection of the views of HM representatives abroad in 1933 on whether women should be appointed to the British Diplomatic and Consular Services” (pages 29-34). The fact that negative arguments similar to some of those put forward in 1933 still surface sometimes today is a reminder that no struggle for social change is ever definitively concluded.

Photo by The Financial Times

About Leigh Turner

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of…

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of the UN and other organisations; stories here will reflect that.

About me: I arrived in Vienna in August 2016 for my second posting in this wonderful city, having first served here in the mid-1980s. My previous job was as HM Consul-General and Director-General for Trade and Investment for Turkey, Central Asia and South Caucasus based in Istanbul.

Further back: I grew up in Nigeria, Exeter, Lesotho, Swaziland and Manchester before attending Cambridge University 1976-79. I worked in several government departments before joining the Foreign Office in 1983.

Keen to go to Africa and South America, I’ve had postings in Vienna (twice), Moscow, Bonn, Berlin, Kyiv and Istanbul, plus jobs in London ranging from the EU Budget to the British Overseas Territories.

2002-6 I was lucky enough to spend four years in Berlin running the house, looking after the children (born 1992 and 1994) and doing some writing and journalism.

To return to Vienna as ambassador is a privilege and a pleasure. I hope this blog reflects that.