Women of the GCSP – A Swiss Diplomat and Government Fellow's Perspective

Anna Ifkovits

Women of the GCSP – A Swiss Diplomat and Government Fellow's Perspective

On the occasion of the International Women's Day, the GCSP tells you the story of five women and how they are connected to the GCSP. The GCSP helps empowering women, discover how through their answers.

Anna IfkovitsDiscover Ambassador Anna Ifkovits, Swiss Ambassador, Former Director for Eurasia at the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and Government Fellow within the Global Fellowship Initiative at the GCSP. 

Why did you choose to enter this field?/What got you into this field? 

I studied Sociology in Geneva and then International Relations in Spain because I have always been interested in politics, languages and discovering other cultures and countries. After completing my Master's degree, I did an internship at the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. It was there that I came into contact with diplomats and realised that diplomacy might be the right thing for me. 

What drove you to join the GCSP?  

I am preparing for my new position at the Swiss Mission to the UN in Geneva, where I will be responsible for all matters relating to Geneva as a host country for international organisations and NGOs. The impressive network of the GCSP is ideal to help me discover international Geneva from the inside and to best prepare myself for my next position. It also allows me to dig into areas that are of high relevance for the future, such as AI. In addition, it is an excellent place to meet very interesting people from different backgrounds, coming from all over the world. 

How does the GCSP help empowering women? 

Firstly, there are many courses offered at the GCSP, especially some dedicated to women. Secondly, I see many women working at the GCSP, in different positions, and thirdly, there is a positive attitude towards women's empowerment and gender issues, from the director to the fellows working at the GCSP. 

Why do you think it is important to celebrate International Women’s Day?  

I think we will be able to really celebrate when women's rights are respected everywhere and full equality is achieved. In the meantime, it is important to remind ourselves collectively, at least for one day per year, that we need to work together towards that goal. 

As a woman, what are the most important challenges you have overcome to fulfil your role? How did you overcome them?  

Finding the right balance between my role as a professional and my role as a mother and spouse is definitely the biggest challenge. As a diplomat, you have to keep trying to find the right balance as you move from place to place or change jobs every four years. It requires a high level of adaptability from the whole family. So, first and foremost, you need the right person at your side, secondly, you need stamina, and thirdly, you should stay true to yourself and choose your own path. 

What is your proudest achievement while working at the GCSP? 

I only started at GCSP one month ago. Therefore, my proudest achievement is still to come :-) 

What is the best piece of advice you were ever given? 

Try to do your best wherever you work and in whatever environment you are in, and look for colleagues and superiors who will support and promote you.  

When I started my career as a Swiss diplomat more than 20 years ago, the number of women diplomats could be counted on the fingers of one hand - well maybe two. The people who supported me the most were - with a few exceptions - almost all men. So for me, achieving equality and women's full participation in all spheres of life is really a matter for both men and women. 

What is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers? 

Take good opportunities when they come. Don't think too much about the difficulties you might encounter along the way or whether you will be up to the job, just go for it. I would like to quote Franklin D. Roosevelt: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. So I strongly encourage young women to give audacity a chance.  

How can we encourage more women to pursue entrepreneurship or senior leadership roles in the field of peace and security? 

I think we need to act on three levels: 1) Give women access to the appropriate training, advanced courses, and encourage them to be active in this field as in any other.  2) Give them visibility in their field and in the public sphere. We need role models. I really like the Panel Parity Pledge of the International Gender Champions, where champions commit themselves not to participate in any single-sex panel. 3) Last, but not least, women should  aspire to this role, communicate it and position themselves.


Check out the other stories in our "Women of the GCSP" series: