On Thursday, June 30, IWP hosted Amb. Jean Wilkowski, a retired diplomat whose accomplishments include being the first American woman to serve as a head of mission to an African country.
She discussed how she first entered the foreign service of the United States. She was originally involved in journalism and public relations, but was encouraged to pursue a government career because of her background in ethics.
Amb. Wilkowski shared her experiences doing consular work in Trinidad, reporting on the coffee trade from Bogota, advising French businesses in Paris, serving as the Deputy Chief of Mission in Honduras, and serving as Minister for Economic Affairs in Rome.
She also described serving as the first woman US ambassador to an African country when she served as Ambassador to Zambia. Her experiences there ranged from running the embassy and representing the United States to chasing hippopotamuses with Henry Kissinger. She observed that she had a good experience there because many of the African people found it easier to trust a woman in an ambassador position.
Questions covered the advantages and disadvantages of being a woman ambassador, the challenges of balancing the interests of the US and those of the country in which she was serving, and how technology has affected the work of foreign service officers.