University of Edinburgh graduate among UK’s first female ambassadors to all G7 countries
Jill Gallard, who studied French and Spanish at the University of Edinburgh 30 years ago, was the UK’s first female ambassador to Germany when she took office last November.
Former high commissioner in Australia Menna Rawlings, who officially took office as ambassador to France on Monday, will complete the six men, after 43 men in this post.
She will join the other four: Susan Jane the Younger of Allegeershecque, High Commissioner to Canada, Dame Karen Pierce, British Ambassador to the United States, Jill Morris, the first of the six to be appointed, in Italy in 2016, and Julia Longbottom, who took up her post in Japan in March.
The other ambassadors of the United Kingdom are Caroline Wilson (China), Dame Barbara Woodward (sent to the United Nations) and Deborah Bronnert (Russia).
The British women high commissioners in other Commonwealth countries are Victoria Treadell (Australia) and Catriona Laing (Nigeria).
They are among the more than 60 female heads of mission for the UK abroad, which have tripled from 22 in the past decade and now represent almost a third of the total.
The G7 milestone comes 45 years after Dame Anne Warburton became the UK’s first female ambassador to Denmark.
The first married woman was not appointed ambassador until ten years later.
Women had been banned by the Foreign Office from diplomatic roles until 1946 and had to resign if they married until 1973.
Ms Gallard, 53, born in Omagh, Northern Ireland, who first became an Ambassador ten years ago to Portugal, said: ‘It’s just weird now to think that in my lifetime women diplomats had to resign if they married.
“When I joined the Foreign Ministry in 1991, I had always thought that I should leave if I got married and had children.
“All of the older women seemed to be single or have no children, and so the message that was sent was that in fact, you can’t do this job and have a family if you’re a woman.
“My husband and I didn’t get married until our late 30s.
“When I got my first ambassadorial post in Lisbon in 2011, our sons were only three and one years old.
“I remember back then I couldn’t find a British Ambassador who had done the job with such young children.
“It’s very different now, but back then I remember being very nervous about all the evening engagements.
“I was like, ‘I’m going to have to do my best.
“Having a very involved husband helps. Moving around I used to think I should marry a poet who could sit on a mountain wherever I was posted, but I married an official who is very portable.
“When my boys were toddlers I always tried to get home at five for tea and bath time, then I would go to a party and be like an Exocet missile, I would talk to people. most important, then I escaped. so I can be back for bedtime as often as possible.
“My generation is now the first to do this work with working spouses and children and we are certainly moving in the right direction.
“I’ve worked with all of the women ambassadors currently in key roles and it’s almost like a fellowship because we got there the hard way.
“When we started you looked up and didn’t see anyone like you, so many of us spend a lot of time mentoring young diplomats.
“None of this existed 20 years ago.”
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The Ambassador fondly remembers her time as a student in Edinburgh, but left because there were no suitable jobs.
She said: “I absolutely loved Scotland.
“I would have stayed there if I could, but at the time there weren’t really any language jobs in Edinburgh.
“It’s very different now.
“It’s shocking to say, but the biggest excitement back then was that the pubs were open until 3am, because in Northern Ireland they all closed at 11pm.
“The first year I was at Pollok Halls, then I had several apartments near The Meadows and one year I was right next to Charlotte Square in the new town.
“It was a basement without central heating.
“Hilarious, almost 30 years later I was sitting in a Portuguese vineyard chatting with the owners and it turned out that his son in his twenties had just finished his studies in Edinburgh and we had rented the same apartment from a Scottish QC, so it’s a small world.
“I have 26 cousins and loved Edinburgh so much that a lot of them followed me to the University of Edinburgh and so did the next generation so I created a trend.”
Ms Gallard played a key role in the UK’s joint statement with Germany on foreign and security policy cooperation in June.
It focused on climate change, human rights and international development and was signed by Foreign Minister Dominic Raab and his German counterpart Heiko Maas.
She said: “Many Germans are openly disappointed that the UK chose to leave the EU, but at the same time they are pragmatic and understand that it was a democratic decision.
“The UK-Germany joint statement is about how we look to the future and work together on major global challenges.
“Our strength for the right agenda really matches a lot of German foreign policy on issues like climate change, democracy, human rights and international development.”