The Fletcher School’s Conference on Gender in International Affairs is only in its third year, but it’s already garnered widespread participation from students of all fields of study at Fletcher as well as members of the greater Boston community. The third annual conference, titled “Money, Power, and Influence: The Gendered Dimensions of Geopolitics,” took place at Fletcher on Nov. 17-18, and featured five panels, three breakout sessions, an employer showcase and a keynote address.
The conference welcomed over 525 participants this year and kicked off with an employer showcase, where eight employers — Abt Associates, Oxfam, TetraTec, Conflict Dynamics International, Save the Children, East West Institute, Education First and Brown Brothers Harriman — were on hand to talk with students interested in jobs and internships with companies who employ the practice of, and promote, gender mainstreaming.
In his opening address, Dean James Stavridis shared his personal attitude towards trying to understand the impact gender has on foreign policy broadly and on a day-to-day basis. “Everyone’s on a journey; everybody’s learning,” he said, explaining that personal views towards gender are constantly evolving.
Dean Stavridis also introduced the conference’s first panel, “Queering International Relations,” which explored how queer theory informs constructs of statehood and sovereignty. Moderated by Tufts’ Women’s Center Director K. Martinez, the panel aimed to “center the margins of the margins” by exposing how state-driven homophobia impacts LGBTQI communities’ abilities to organize, advocate and practice rights.
The first day featured a film screening of “Kiki,” which follows seven members of the LGBT artistic activist community in New York City over four years and uses the artists’ preparations and performances at dance events known as “Kiki balls” as a framing device for delving into their battles with homelessness, illness and prejudice. The film also chronicles the artists’ gains in political influence.
Later in the day, Fletcher Professor Ian Johnstone moderated the “Gender and Nuclear Security” panel, which brought together academics and policymakers to address how gender serves as a symbolic structure in nuclear policies.
The first day closed with remarks from Fletcher Professor of Practice Michele L. Malvesti, who reflected on gender as a symbol of power in foreign policy and shared her own experiences as a female serving in high-profile foreign policy roles.
The second day featured remarks from the conference’s student organizers, who reflected on their vision for intersectionality as the overarching theme of this year’s conference. They emphasized how certain individuals and groups (based on race, class, nationality, and gender) have been seemingly erased from history and discussed how these groups have been denied access to power.
Later panel discussions examined how impact investing (as a field and in practice) would benefit from increased gender mainstreaming, explored how gender norms influence gang recruitment and violence, and addressed what this means for local, national and international responses to organized crime.
In addition to fellow academic practitioners, Fletcher clubs had a strong presence at the conference. The Food Policy Club, Tech@Fletcher, and the Fletcher Islamic Society helped lead three breakout sessions.
Delivering the keynote address, Nancy Krieger of the Harvard T.H. Chan School for Public Health discussed how biological essentialism has perpetuated gendered inequities, particularly in the National Institute of Health’s research framework.
This year's conference builds upon the successes of two prior conferences at Fletcher, which focused on gender analysis and gender-sensitive leadership. Moving forward, conference organizers hope to continue to facilitate conversations surrounding gender and power, whilst deepening participants' understanding of the relevance of gender in relation to status, access and influence in all areas of international relations.