See the table

Peace talks. Paris. The table. See the table.

A general view shows U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (4th L, seated), French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (4th R) and other leaders at the start of the ministerial meeting on Syria at the Quai d'Orsay, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Paris on December 14, 2015. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)


Notice anything?

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was in Paris on Monday for a ministerial meeting with his counterparts from France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Qatar, and Turkey to discuss possible solutions to the ongoing crisis in Syria. Take a good look at the photo above. Noticeably absent are … you guessed it … women. Sure, there are a few in the room, but not one woman is seated at the table in a position of power — because not one of the above countries has a woman foreign minister. Such an abject lack of gender parity at high-stakes talks like these is shameful.

It’s shameful the same way it’s shameful there are no women in the hierarchy of the Catholic church. The crisis in Syria affects women, to put it mildly, yet there is not one woman taking part in that discussion.

In a 2012 report on women’s participation in peace negotiations, U.N. Women observed that a “limited but reasonably representative sample of 31 major peace processes between 1992 and 2011 reveals that only four percent of signatories, 2.4 percent of chief mediators, 3.7 percent of witnesses and 9 per cent of negotiators are women.”

The report adds that “the underrepresentation of women at the peace table is much more marked than in other public decision-making roles, where women are still underrepresented but where the gap has been steadily narrowing. This includes the roles that typically dominate peace talks: politician, lawyer, diplomat and member of a party to armed conflict. Women’s structural exclusion from peace talks has significant consequences for the extent to which issues of concern to them — such as violence against women or women’s citizenship rights — are addressed.”

Women aren’t just bystanders. Women aren’t passengers or baggage. Women aren’t Roombas or Siris. Women are real people, just as men are real people. Women should be included in these discussions.

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