Progress still needed in global gender equality, foreign relations expert says

Hannah Daniel

Advancing the status of women and girls globally is in the U.S.’s best interests, a foreign relations expert said at a talk on Tuesday. 

Rachel Vogelstein, senior fellow and director of the Women and Foreign Policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations, a New York-based nonprofit organization, gave the talk at the Union, stating the U.S. should take a larger role in erasing gender inequality. 

Vogelstein said given the current condition of rising threats to the country, the U.S. must justify expenditure of time and resources in the foreign policy and national security arena to keep the nation prosperous and safe. According to Vogelstein, promoting women’s rights worldwide fits in with these priorities.

“In 2016, we have compelling evidence that advancing the status of women and girls is not simply just, it is in fact a strategic imperative and one that we overlook to our peril,” Vogelstein said.

Vogelstein said women’s global status has improved dramatically in recent years in sectors such as education and health.

Although women have made gains in some areas, others show low growth, according to Vogelstein. She said inequality persists in areas such as the gender wage gap, underrepresentation of women in politics and violence against women.

“While gender inequalities may be deeply rooted, they are not insurmountable,” Vogelstein said. “Considerable unfinished business remains, particularly in respect to women’s economic participation, political participation and security.”

Marie Sells, international relations and global studies junior, said she found the talk both inspiring and educational.

“I’m so much more optimistic now,” said Sells, vice president of Women in Foreign Affairs. “There’s work being done as we speak to promote gender equality.”

Julián Muñoz Villarreal, Middle Eastern studies and sociology senior, said he learned it takes more than one or two empowered women to incite change.

“It really requires a critical mass of women who can impact their environment in order to make effective and positive change in their community,” Villarreal said.

Vogelstein said research shows that participation of women in economics and politics spurs economic growth, increases prosperity around the world and improves peace agreements, all of which reflect U.S. interests.

“Advancing the rights of women and girls through U.S. foreign policy is not just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do,” Vogelstein said.