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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 UK in Austria

9th May 2018 Vienna, Austria

Four future women ambassadors?

‘So,’ I say, ‘what do you think you might to do for a career?’

‘Diplomat,’ says the first young woman.

‘Yeah, diplomat,’ the second says.

‘Us, too,’ say the third and fourth members of the group.

As part of #girlsday, or #toechtertag, the British Embassy in Vienna this year invited young women to apply to shadow me, as Ambassador, for a typical day at work.  The goal was to encourage young women to consider career options in predominantly male-dominated fields.

We also hoped to give our visitors, and the wider public, a better idea of what ambassadors actually do.

So far as we know, we were the only embassy to take part, alongside 168 Viennese businesses.

The applicants for our British Embassy #girlsday were so good that we had to take on four participants, one more than planned:  Paula (16), Eva (17), Joyce (16) and Nicole (17).  Their programme on the day included joining a weekly team meeting at the embassy; attending the opening of a regional conference on the Western Balkans; coming to a meeting with Martin Engelberg, head of the Austria-UK friendship group in the Austrian Parliament; and a visit to the OSCE at the Hofburg.  I also talked to them about my own career, and answered their questions.

I was hugely grateful to the young women for visiting the embassy and to all the participants in all three British missions who met them.  I was delighted that they said they found it interesting; that it had firmed up their interest in diplomacy; and that they were interested in a career in diplomacy themselves.

As for the Foreign Office, we not only have recently appointed a special envoy for gender-related issues world-wide, but are committed to promoting a balanced gender ratio within our own organisation.  We aim to have 50% women among staff by 2020 and 39% women among leadership by 2019.

This stuff really matters.  I hope Joyce, Paula, Eva and Nicole thrive in their future studies and careers, and I will see some or all of them as diplomats – or maybe even ambassadors – before too long.

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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.