When interviewing Dr Rachel Aron, the UK Ambassador to Belgium, it is apparent that she loves her job, speaking highly of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who she describes as understanding and helping her throughout her career. She has, without doubt, had an amazing career – joining the FCO in 1984 and consequently serving at posts in Brazil, Oman, and as First Secretary (Sanctions) of the UK Mission to the UN.
Having done her PhD in Cambridge, she says she always enjoyed reading about foreign affairs. In spite of the fact that Aron found the FCO to be a male dominated and hierarchical environment when she joined in 1984, she says that “I never felt held back as a woman”. Testament to that is her ability to work part-time during childcare, as well as holding joint posts with her husband, who also works in the FCO. She’s positive about the FCO and feels the job is a “two way street”- if you are committed then the organisation will seek to help you.
There are still, however, lingering issues in such an environment. She points out that there’s a definite change of dynamic whenever a woman appears at an event; she is always noticed and the men do not seem so “chummy” anymore, though in my opinion this is probably a good thing.
So what was her most enjoyable experience in her job? She loved living in Oman, Jordan. The views of the city, variety of landscape, the Red and Dead Seas just short drives from where she was living, she found the country open and the Jordanians very friendly.
I asked her of the practical work an Ambassador does on the job – such as testing out contingency plans. Is there any point in preparing for an emergency, when you don’t know what it may be? Dr Aron says they are very realistic, sometimes verging on the terrifying. However, looking at her calm and friendly demeanor throughout our meeting, it is hard to see how such a woman could ever lose her cool.
When asked about building relationships with other countries, she adopts a serious tone in her voice. It is obvious she is passionate and professional in what she believes in and says that we need to improve relations with countries like Iran. She thinks we need to “build on areas of common ground”, as although western values are not always universal, if we can engage countries we can learn from them and pass on our own experiences. Dr Aron is persuasive throughout her interview, as under the combination of professional experience and friendliness she has a strong persona that has made her the highest ranking female Ambassador in the FCO.
On parting from her, she embarks on a day of talks in Oxford- hopefully I won’t be the only one who leaves with the impression that she is a fantastic representative of the FCO, as both an inclusive working environment and a diverse and stimulating career.