Honoring the Ladies of Nuclear Policy

Today is International Women’s Day, a time to recognize the economic, social, and political achievements of women worldwide. That makes it a perfect time to pay tribute to the many women making a powerful impact on nuclear weapons policy.

Years ago, national security (and particularly nuclear weapons) were considered to be exclusively the domain of men. While women have always led grassroots efforts for their abolition (like our own Sally Lilienthal!), nuclear policy was historically dominated by men like Edward Teller, Robert McNamara and Henry Kissinger.

But no more. The current administration is filled with prominent women who are dedicated to common sense nuclear security policy – working to minimize the liability that nuclear weapons have become both here and abroad.

Here are a few notable examples:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has emerged as a decisive force against nuclear weapons and proliferation, making calls for a Middle East nuclear-free zone. Hillary has led the charge in the State Department’s effort to make President Obama’s vision of a nuclear weapon-free world a reality.

United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice has played a key role in enacting sanctions against Iran and North Korea, helping to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials.

Rose Gottemoeller, Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affair, served as the chief negotiator who successfully pushed the monumental New START treaty through Congress in December 2010, leading to a dramatic decrease in the sizes of Russian and American nuclear arsenals. She continues to push for nuclear security and US-Russia cooperation in the State Department.

The former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, former Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher served as the primary delegate in discussion of ballistic missile defense with Russia.

Bonnie Jenkins, State Department’s Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs in the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, works to secure nuclear materials and is the State Department lead for the Nuclear Security Summit. Bonnie also represents the United States at the G8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction.

Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation Susan Burk works to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and promote nonproliferation worldwide.

As First Lady Michelle Obama noted in a speech today, women are fighting to remake the world "as they know it should be". For women in nuclear policy, that means a world with fewer nuclear weapons. 

It’s hard to image what the world would look like today without the tireless efforts of these women, in addition to the work of our female grantees, donors, and staff members. Working for peace is no small feat. Thanks in part to these women, we’re getting closer.

Photo by Medill DC on Flickr