Women are indispensable in diplomacy - a mini-conference organised by Széchenyi István University

In line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, a series of panel discussions was organised by Széchenyi István University and it explores the topic of gender equality by inviting inspiring speakers. The latest event was linked to the UN World Day for “Women in Diplomacy” on 24 June.

A series of mini-conferences, titled "Women in Family, Society and Science”, started this year at the Budapest Innovation and Training Centre of Széchenyi István University. The speakers invited to the programmes are always women whose professional success and determination can be role models for many of us. The topic of the event organised in June was Women in Diplomacy.

In her welcome speech, Dr Eszter Lukács, Vice President for International and Strategic Relations of the University, explained that  Széchenyi University is an associated institution of the UN Academic Impact (UNAI) programme, which is a collaborative initiative of the United Nations system of higher education institutions, and therefore places special emphasis on supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals. "We have dedicated the year of 2023 to the values of the fifth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 5) - achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls. In this series of events, we explore the different aspects of this vital endeavour," she stressed.


Former Ambassador to Washington, Dr László Szabó, Barbara Piazza-Georgi, Ambassador Katalin Bogyay, Dr Eszter Lukács, Vice-President at SZE, Dr Ivonn Szeverényi, ambassador at large, responsible for Hungarian innovation export and startup promotion at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Dr. János Perényi, former Ambassador to Vienna and Sofia von Solemacher van der Vegt. (Photo: József Bankó)

At the event, Katalin Bogyay, Hungary's 15th Permanent Representative to the United Nations, former Permanent Delegate to the UNESCO, and President of the 36th UNESCO General Assembly, Founding Director of the Hungarian Cultural Centre in London, and the current President of the Hungarian UN Society, said that women are playing an increasing role in international affairs, but there is still much to be done in this field. As an example, she mentioned the fact that only 20-30% of the world's diplomats are women. However, there are huge differences among the countries, Canada, for example, can boast with its 51%, together with the high figures of the Nordic countries and the United Arab Emirates. She believes that Hungary should also appoint more young women as heads of diplomatic missions. As for her own career choice, she emphasised the parental support she received from her motivating father and mother who served the community in the small Hungarian town of Mór. She also added that women are needed in diplomacy because they approach issues in a different way, and their openness and negotiating skills are indispensable - for this purpose, she founded the Women4Diplomacy movement. On a positive note, she said that the 2020 World Expo in Dubai was the first expo to focus on women's empowerment. Katalin Bogyay underlined that the UN's Sustainable Development Goal on gender equality is vital because it is inextricably linked to all the other goals.


The speakers of the panel discussion can be role models for many of us with their professional success and determination.
(Photos: József Bankó)

The presence of Borbala Czakó, former Ambassador of Hungary to London, was also special at the event because she graduated from the predecessor of Széchenyi István University, the Technical College of Transport and Telecommunications. She has had a distinguished career in diplomacy and in the business world - she is currently a board member of GYSEV Zrt, the chairman of the advisory board of 4iG Nyrt, and member of the board of directors of Mezőhegyes National Stud Farm and State Farm, as well as the chairman of the Women's Leadership Forum of the Hungarian Business Leaders Forum, established in 1992 on the personal initiative of Prince Charles, now King Charles III. She stressed the importance of language learning, especially English, which she started at a very early age as she was inspired by her great-grandmother who lived in America. She also believes that it is not the degree itself that is important, but the acquisition of knowledge on which a career - even in diplomacy - can be built.

Barbara Piazza-Georgi, of Hungarian-Italian descent, talked about her more than 30 years of experience in the UN, mainly in Africa and the Middle East, working in the fight against poverty, most recently as UN Population Fund representative for Palestine and Syria. She is currently working in Budapest as Head of Communications of the Hungarian Associaton of the Order of Malta and Communications Officer of the Berehove District Charity Service of the Order of Malta. She spoke about the difference how the two gender’s thinking differ from each other and said that this difference in diplomacy is about 10 percent: women are more intuitive, while men are more analytical. "Effective diplomacy is best when both approaches are present," she underlined.

Sofia von Solemacher van der Vegt also has Hungarian roots on her mother's side and is currently the director of the Christian Democratic Institute in Budapest. For almost 20 years, she has regularly given trainings for the Robert Schuman Institute, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Hanns Seidel Foundation on topics such as team building, communication skills, personal development or policies of the European Union. “We must educate our children to find peaceful solutions to all issues. A peaceful compromise is mutually empowering," she sums up her experience.

The programme at the Centre for Innovation and Training of Széchenyi István University in Budapest was well attended. (Photos: József Bankó)

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