Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference
The 2017 Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference takes place on March 20 and 21, 2017 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC. It brings together over 800 experts and officials from more than forty-five countries and international organizations.
The conference takes place on the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Conference panels will focus on debates surrounding the treaty’s core articles, as well as on questions of how to manage its nonmembers and sole former member. Panels will also consider the future of global nuclear order, as well as emerging trends in deterrence, disarmament, nonproliferation, nuclear security, and nuclear energy. To access the full agenda please visit the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace website.
Women of Mass Destruction
WIIS is a co-host of a side event to the Carnegie Nuclear Policy Conference entitled "Women of Mass Destruction." In this session, participants will break into small groups and discuss the challenges facing women in this area. The groups will then try to identify concrete actions to advance gender parity. These suggestions will be collated by WIIS with the goal of facilitating an on-going, long-term discussion. This session, to which men are welcome, is intended to provide a forum where experts from across the WMD-policy community at all career levels can work collaboratively to address a shared challenge. Additional information can be accessed here.
Insights from Women Leaders in the Nuclear Arms Control Arena
Learn more through the insights of women leaders in the nuclear arms control arena! On the occasion of the 2017 Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference, a handful of women speakers offer their insights on what it means to be a woman working in the nuclear arms control arena, recommendations for young women looking to enter this arena, and reflections on challenges for nuclear arms control in the next decade.
- When did you first become interested in nuclear arms control issues and why?
I had been interested in WMD policy issues in undergrad and graduate school, because I was interested in the intersection of science and international security. my graduate thesis focused on the Biological Weapons Convention and its lack of a verification mechanism. I began to focus on nuclear issues when I went to work for Joe Cirincione at the Center for American Progress and then at the Ploughshares Fund.
- Did you meet many women when you first entered the field and has that situation changed?
I have been lucky to have female mentors throughout my career, but I am glad to see more women around me everyday. Of course, I had the good fortune to work at State with female leaders like Secretary Hillary Clinton, Under Secretary Tauscher, Under Secretary Sherman, Under Secretary Gottemoeller, Ambassador Laura Kennedy, Ambassador Laura Holgate and Ambassador Susan Burk. Not only did women at State understand nuclear policy. they ran it.
- What have been some of the obstacles you've encountered during your professional life?
I have experienced a fair amount of mansplaining and misogyny, but at times my biggest obstacle has been self-doubt. I cannot count the number of times I knew the answer or had a solution and remained silent long enough to hear a man in the room offer the same answer or solution.
- Do you have any particular recommendations for young women who want to enter the nuclear arms control arena?
Do your homework, have courage, and speak up. If you have done the work to be at the table, you deserve to be there. Don't doubt your own skills.
- Do you think women bring a particular sensibility to the negotiation of arms control agreements? Do they negotiate differently?
I go back and forth about this. In general, I think women have a better aptitude for active listening and consensus building. In the last two instances where the United States need a nuclear negotiator, women were chosen for the job. That said, there were plenty of stellar male negotiators at the State Department. For me, the most important thing is for women to have an equal shot at any position.
- What do you see as the greatest challenges for nuclear arms control in the next decade?
1- Getting people to care about arms control;
2- Stopping the next generation of Dr. Strangeloves from getting the world into a nuclear conflict; and
3- Getting people to understand that while verifable arms control can be tortuously slow, it is worth it.
- When did you first become interested in nuclear arms control issues and why? The 1983 movie “The Day After” was incredibly impactful and ultimately sparked my interest in arms control issues. This movie is set in an area near where I grew up so its proximity to my home and the devastating aftermath of a nuclear war really hit home. I had already decided that I wanted to work on international relations, but then decided to focus on nuclear arms control. My growing interest in nuclear arms control was further propelled by my involvement in the student activist group PARAR (Princeton Alliance to Resist the Arms Race).
- Did you meet many women when you first entered the field and has that situation changed? It wasn’t until I got through grad school and joined the Center for Science and International Affairs (now Belfer Center) at Harvard that I encountered more women working in the field. At the Center I met a group of women who welcomed me and organized activities to help support the professional development of other women. These women included Amy Sands, Michele Flournoy, Nina Tannenwald… women who would ultimately become colleagues and friends over time.
Depending on what part of the nuclear arms control field you look at, you could say that certain sectors are now female-dominated. The negotiations involving the New START Treaty had an overwhelming number of women in decision-making roles. This may be attributed to the fact that a generation of women experts have matured and risen to these leadership roles.
- What have been some of the obstacles you've encountered during your professional life? In the earlier stages of my career as a junior bureaucrat in the Pentagon it was a challenge to get the respect of older, military men, but it was hard to disaggregate whether their disdain was owed to my being female, political, civilian, or young. As I progressed in my career, a notable obstacle I encountered involved my foreign counterparts in nuclear threat reduction negotiations. It didn’t occur to my counterparts that a woman could hold a lead role in negotiations. I would sit down across the table from the head of the other delegation, and the international counterpart would direct questions to a man who happen to be sitting next to me. There were few, if any, women on their side leading on nuclear arms control issues so it never occurred to them that a woman could (and was) taking the lead on negotiations. In several cases, my male colleagues on the US delegation took their counterparts aside and set them straight on my role.
- Do you have any particular recommendations for young women who want to enter the nuclear arms control arena? Train for the nuclear arms control arena. There are many master’s level programs that can provide the knowledge and tools to be helpful in entering this field. Almost everyone who works in the nuclear arms control arena was in a different field before entering it. There will always be a handful of people who will carry their expertise with them, but understanding the strategic goals of nuclear arms control issues and being able to articulate such goals in a way that become desirable to your negotiating counterpart is just as important as developing deep technical expertise.
There are also a lot of free resources around Washington, DC. Individuals who are interested in entering the nuclear arms control arena should take advantage of resources such as the PONI Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Nuclear Policy Talks at GWU’s Elliott School of International Affairs, web-based tutorials from the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), and expert writing and speaker series at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
- Do you think women bring a particular sensibility to the negotiation of arms control agreements? Do they negotiate differently? There is social science that suggests women do negotiate differently, but it is difficult for me to disaggregate gender related differences and individual characteristics. A social scientist may be able to tease out some commonalities, but my personal experience doesn’t allow me to make any concrete assertions.
However, I would opine that women run their own delegations differently. You can see a pattern in generalizations about how women run things. For example, women-led delegations are typically more transparent and collaborative, and members are more likely to have an opportunity to contribute to the conversation/product (more equal division of labor).
- What do you see as the greatest challenges for nuclear arms control in the next decade? The greatest challenge for nuclear arms control in the next decade will be getting Russia back to the table. If Russia is successfully brought back to the table, then the next challenge in sequence and size is how you move from bilateral to multilateral arms control.
- When did you first become interested in nuclear arms control issues and why? I first became seriously interested in nuclear politics back in 2000, after taking a course in international security for my master’s degree. I decided to dedicate my PhD to the U.S.-Russian strategic nuclear relationship and use cooperative threat reduction as a case study.
I owe my interest in nuclear issues to my country and my family. Kazakhstan has a complicated and fascinating nuclear history. The Soviet nuclear program relied on Kazakhstan for uranium, nuclear fuel production facilities, and most consequentially, for nuclear weapons testing. Forty years of nuclear tests at Semipalatinsk nuclear testing site became an important and tragic page in Kazakhstan’s history. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Kazakhstan had to deal with more than a thousand Soviet nuclear weapons left on its territory. That is where the story of my country and that of my family intersect. My late father was a foreign policy advisor to the government at that time and devoted a lot of time to thinking through international nuclear issues and questions of how Kazakhstan fit in the global nuclear system. I am thrilled to follow his footsteps.
- Did you meet many women when you first entered the field and has that situation changed? My first real exposure to the field was in 2003 when I first came to Washington to conduct “field work” for my PhD. I lived in the United Kingdom back then and nobody knew me here. There were not many women in the field but the ones I met were all incredibly kind with their time, expertise, and support. I recall with great fondness my first encounters and research interviews with Rose Gottemoeller, Sharon Squassoni, Mary Beth Nikitin, Susan Koch, Laura Holgate, Elizabeth Turpen, and Amy Woolf. I should add that men were equally open to share their expertise. I found DC’s arms control and nonproliferation community exceptionally open and generous to a young PhD student from a foreign country.
I observe with great satisfaction how the gender balance is gradually evening out, with more and more young women entering the field. It is my hope that our field will become more and more reflective of the diversity of the world we live in, both in terms of gender, but also in terms of geography.
- What have been some of the obstacles you've encountered during your professional life? I received my PhD in Politics when I was only 24 and started my professional life quite early. Being young and coming from a developing, non-Western country did not make me a natural fit in the nuclear field. I found that the diplomatic world especially can be quite hierarchical. But I also learnt pretty quickly that it is important not to take things personally and it is more productive to focus on things that matter most – the quality of your work, meeting your own standards, and maintaining self-respect.
- Do you have any particular recommendations for young women who want to enter the nuclear arms control arena? Cultivate a sense of inner confidence - in your own abilities and in general goodness of people who surround you. You will meet many people along the way who will inspire and support you, if the quality of your work is solid and if you are passionate about what you do. Always do your best, and let the quality of your work speak for itself.
Once you make it in the field, do not forget about the kindness extended to you. Be welcoming and helpful to those who enter the field after you.
- What do you see as the greatest challenges for nuclear arms control in the next decade? We have entered a very fluid and uncertain period in international relations. Unfortunately, I do not foresee any major breakthroughs in nuclear arms control in the near future. The immediate challenge is to prevent rolling back what has been achieved so far and preventing any major new crisis from developing. We should focus on tangible, less grand but no less important tasks - preserving the Iran Nuclear Deal, making it harder for DPRK to enhance its nuclear program, helping India and Pakistan avoid escalation, and not allowing United States and Russia to walk away from their obligations to each other in the nuclear field.
- When did you first become interested in nuclear arms control issues and why? I started off interested in Russia and during my MA at GW I took a course on nuclear policy with Brad Roberts, which is what hooked me. Brad was a very encouraging teacher, which helped foster interest, but I also always had a passion for Russia issues and trying to understand how broader US-Russia relations impacts on arms control, and vice versa. Russia remains a mystery.
- Did you meet many women when you first entered the field and has that situation changed? The situation has really changed. I started off working in the Department of Defense and there weren’t many female peers or mentors. The small group of us stuck together and formed lasting friendships through shared experiences- some positive, some not. I have a group of female peers working on nuclear weapons issues who make this a lot more fun! But in the past 4-5 years I’ve seen two really encouraging trends. First, a lot more women are entering the field at the MA or PhD level, and they are more diverse in terms of background and nationalities. Second, there are a lot more women in leadership and mentor positions now. These are women who were probably mid-career when I first started but they have now risen through the ranks to leadership positions and are willing to look back and engage with those of us who are now mid-career or more junior. People like Kori Schacke, for example, come to mind.
- What have been some of the obstacles you've encountered during your professional life? Saying “no.” I don’t know if this is unique to women, but I still find it hard to say, “I just can’t do this.” Whether that be speaking at an event, helping my boss plan an event, or going on a trip. When I worked at Chatham House, given the operating tempo and priorities of a think tank, this was a lot harder. Now that I’m not so junior and in academia, we are meant to be prioritizing research so it is a little bit easier, but I still get fear of missing out.
- Do you have any particular recommendations for young women who want to enter the nuclear arms control arena? Network, but also know your stuff. There is a tendency in Washington to think it’s all about “who you know” that helps you get a job or get a scoop, so we spend a lot of time networking. But in addition to networking, make sure you are devoting time to understanding your issue area, ask interesting questions, do original research, and have a sense of purpose. There comes a point when “what you know” is much more important and you need to be independent. Other piece of advice would be to know who you can and cannot trust. It’s a competitive field, and we shouldn’t isolate ourselves, but we also need to be discreet with who we share ideas with. Almost everyone I know in the nuclear field has learned this lesson the hard way when someone betrayed their trust.
- Do you think women bring a particular sensibility to the negotiation of arms control agreements? Do they negotiate differently? I’m going to approach this from an academic angle, rather than from that of a practitioner. Up until a decade ago, the majority of the academic literature suggested who is negotiating doesn’t matter- negotiators are mere servants of the state, fulfilling their duties, following guidance. But there is some really exciting new research coming out, such as Rose McDermott’s work on “political neuroscience” or Keren Yarhi-Milo’s work on the role of individuals in policy-making, which suggests the answer isn’t as clear cut. I suspect people like Alex Bell have some great stories about how personalities matter and how women negotiate differently from me. I’m really excited to see how the academic research, including interviews with those negotiators, develops and hopefully can link up with policy.
- What do you see as the greatest challenges for nuclear arms control in the next decade? Rebuilding. We have consider the possibility of a post-arms control era, given the precarious status of the INF Treaty, for example, and potentially failing to extend New START. Even the NPT is in a fragile position. Distrust is rife not only between the US and Russia, but also people nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states. It is going to take time to rebuild that trust, and we may need to think of arms control differently. It isn’t always bilateral, strategic, nuclear reductions with verification. There are other trust-building measures that we need to explore when the time is right.