Summary by UMD Fellows Jordan Jantzen and Lauren Krotz
On June 29, 2020, UMD Generation M hosted a Virtual Hour with Susan Sloan, Author of A Seat at the Table: Women, Diplomacy, and Lessons for the World, moderated by UMD Generation M Global Co-Chair Kristina Dimitrievski. Susan works for a global advocacy organization engaging with diplomats, government officials, community organizers, and international leaders. She has met with more than 60 countries through diplomacy, advocacy, and experiential education. At the age of 30, she completed a life goal of visiting all seven continents. Susan holds a master’s degree in Global Strategic Communications from Georgetown University and graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism with a major in Public Relations and a minor in Spanish from the University of Georgia.
Susan began the conversation by sharing her inspiration for writing her book. She mentioned the lasting impact of The Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina Gala, an event in 2019 that happened to honor only women in leadership positions that year. Susan remarked that such an occurrence is rare in D.C. and the stories of these women ambassadors, government officials, and leaders needed to be shared. She added that she wanted her book to share stories that featured women not as victims, but as successful trailblazers in our society. After gaining inspiration from the gala, Susan went on to interview more than 30 women leaders from around the globe, a key aspect for her book.
In each of her interviews, Susan asks the same five questions, which over time led to stories and themes emerging in her book. In an effort to offer diverse perspectives in her book, Susan visited as many regions in the world as possible and also interviewed women who were at different levels in their careers. Another important part of her book is Susan’s usage of the term “gender parity” as opposed to “gender equality” or “gender equity”. She chose to use “gender parity” because this term is used to describe the balance of gender in a situation, for instance, who is sitting at the table of power. Susan strongly believes in the importance of having both men and women at the table in order to create better solutions for our countries and the world. Susan’s book tells stories of women at the table who have changed the dynamics in global politics and have made positive changes in both their countries and the world. Having both men and women at the table not only offers a variety of perspectives but creates solutions that would be impossible otherwise.
Susan’s book encourages women to break the cultural norms that may restrict them and to embrace the confidence that places them at the table. She praises Macedonia’s first ambassador to the United States, Ljubica Acevska, for not only putting Macedonia on the map but also for overcoming any gender discrimination to work diligently for the betterment of Macedonia. Susan also goes on to praise the wonderful community UMD has helped build through its network, galas, and other events.
When asked about her writing experience, Susan shares that in the beginning, she worried about experiencing imposter syndrome and contemplated if women leaders would even make time to speak with her. However, after becoming more confident in speaking about her book, Susan began making connections that snowballed into the interviews that shaped her book. Susan hopes both men and women will read this book, and perhaps professors will also share this book in the classroom setting, in an effort to see shifts in our society when it comes to viewing who is at the table. Susan hopes that the one thing readers get from her book is that change starts with one person and that we must continue to speak up.
In the Q&A portion, Susan shares that research has found that there must be a split of 40 percent men, 40 percent women, and 20 percent either to create significant cultural changes. Having both genders at the table is imperative to the future of our world. Susan also adds that more effort needs to be placed on creating this change following the Covid-19 crisis. Evidence for the need to enact change is that countries with women in positions of leadership are seeing fewer Covid-19 cases than those without women leaders on average. Additionally, another important note from Susan was that women who were in high positions found themselves growing stronger when they pulled women up with them and surrounded themselves with other encouraging women.
Overall, Susan’s book offers insightful experiences of diverse women who have emerged as leaders in the world. The various interviews offer advice that cannot be found elsewhere, and all people, men, and women are encouraged to read A Seat at the Table: Women, Diplomacy, and Lessons for the World.
If interested in reading Susan Sloan’s book, purchase your copy HERE.