Rhetoric or Reality?: The Integration of Women’s Issues into 21st Century US Foreign Policy

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2012


Considerations for women’s issues have historically been excluded from high-level international relations, which has limited progress on the world’s greatest challenges. This paper seeks to determine how the United States is currently integrating women’s issues into its foreign policy. I begin by briefly explaining the recent historical context of women’s issues in US foreign policy under the Clinton and Bush Jr. administrations. Then I explore the particular methods the Obama administration has undertaken to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment in its foreign policy. In particular, I discuss: professional mechanisms, framing women’s issues as a priority, public diplomacy, relations with international institutions, economic empowerment, health initiatives, increasing female political influence, and bringing women’s issues into processes of peace and security. I conclude that the Obama administration is taking unprecedented steps to integrate women’s issues into US foreign policy. Agencies have established a number of mechanisms and programs to further women’s rights. Individuals such as President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer give women’s issues noticeable attention on the global stage. These actions do not fully address the history of excluding women’s issues from foreign policy nor has the Obama administration integrated women’s issues into every facet of its foreign policy, but its progressive changes will help bring about institutionalized effects in the future.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.


Derek Shearer




Ford Research Mentors Endowment

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