A piece in yesterday’s Telegraph:
Menna Rawlings appointed UK’s first female ambassador to France, joining other senior female ambassadors in Washington, Berlin and Moscow
The UK’s first female ambassador to France means all UK ambassadorships in key postings around the world are now held by women.
It was announced on Thursday that Menna Rawlings had been appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the French Republic, taking over from Lord Llewellyn of Steep, who will be transferring to another Diplomatic Service appointment.
Ms Rawlings’ appointment, which she will take up in the summer, sees her join other senior female ambassadors in key places: Dame Karen Pierce in Washington, Caroline Wilson in Beijing, Jill Gallard in Berlin, Deborah Bronnert in Moscow, Jill Morris in Rome and Julia Longbottom in Tokyo. Meanwhile, Dame Barbara Woodward, holds the role of UK envoy to the UN, Vicki Treadell serves as High Commissioner in Canberra and Dame Sarah Mackintosh is the UK’s ambassador to Nato.
Before Ms Rawlings’ appointment, the last 43 British ambassadors in Paris had been male.
The significance of the role has not been missed on her, as she tweeted on Thursday that she was “delighted to be the next UK ambassador to France, the first woman in this role”.
Women getting significant roles in all walks of life has been of longstanding importance to Ms Rawlings, a mother of daughters.
In 2018 she wrote a blog post about seeing Jodie Whittaker cast as the first female Dr Who.
She wrote: “In my house, the news that a woman will finally get to play this iconic role is celebrated and, if anything, seen as overdue.”
She added: “At a time when we are still struggling to get girls to stay in STEM subjects, it is fantastic that they will finally see a female Doctor, just like them (well, except for her two hearts obviously), travelling through time, using sonic screwdrivers, and saving the universe.”
Ms Rawlings, who was previously High Commissioner to Australia and herself a keen cricket fan, wrote in another blogpost in 2017 that her “first love”, at the mere age of six, was the cricketer Geoffrey Boycott. “I must have been a strange child, as this all triggered an obsession with Geoffrey that lasted a few years,” she wrote.
She diplomatically ended the post by stating cricket is “a sport that binds the UK and Australia together”, conceding that while “bitter rivals on and off the pitch” the two “speak and understand the same language”. “The language of cricket. The sound of our summers. A beautiful game,” she said.
Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, tweeted that he was “delighted” at the appointment.
He said: “I look forward to working with her when she takes up her post in the summer.”
However, the road to so many female ambassadors was not smooth. It was in 1946, 30 years after women won the vote, that the Foreign Office relinquished the ban on women working in diplomacy. However, it was not until 1987 that Britain named its first married female ambassador, some 12 years after Margaret Thatcher became leader of the Conservative party.
Caroline Nokes, chairperson of the Women and Equalities Committee, told The Telegraph “it’s great” to see how far diplomacy has progressed in recent years.
She said: “It’s really positive and just shows that when it comes to ambassadorships Britain is prepared to be bold and lead the way on female representation. I think it’s great.”
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