Women and Foreign Policy Program

Founded in 2002, the Women and Foreign Policy program is now a major component of CFR's Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Initiative. The objective of the Women and Foreign Policy program is to bring the status of women firmly into the mainstream foreign policy debate. The program seeks impact in a variety of ways, including influencing policymakers in the United States and around the world, engaging with non-governmental organizations, educating CFR's influential membership, being an important resource for academics and journalists, and raising awareness among the broader public. It accomplishes this by publishing books, articles, and op-eds; conducting research projects; holding meetings and events; and maintaining partnerships with foundations, corporations, and non-governmental organizations whose work is relevant to that of the program. Thanks in part to the program's efforts, there is now broad understanding of the importance of women's empowerment to a host of development, educational, health, security, and other global priorities.

The program's current areas of focus include:

  • Improving maternal health in Afghanistan.
  • Strengthening U.S. leadership in international reproductive health and family planning.
  • Leveraging new technology and private sector resources to empower women economically.


Isobel Coleman

Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy; Director of the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Initiative; and Director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program

Author of the book Paradise Beneath Her Feet: How Women are Transforming the Middle East (Random House, 2010). Contributing author to Restoring the Balance: A Middle East Strategy for the Next President (Brookings Institution Press, 2008). Coauthor of Strategic Foreign Assistance: Civil Society in International Security (Hoover Institution Press, 2006).

Expertise: Democratization, civil society, economic development, gender issues in the Middle East and South Asia, educational reform, and microfinance.

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

Fellow and Deputy Director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program

Journalist and researcher focusing on U.S. foreign policy, international development, women and economic development, and global entrepreneurship. Contributing editor-at-large at Newsweek and The Daily Beast and author of the New York Times bestseller The Dressmaker of Khair Khana Dressmaker of Khair Khana, about a young woman whose business supported her family and her community during the Taliban years.

Expertise: Economic growth and development; development and the role of women; Afghanistan; women in Afghanistan; entrepreneurship and role of business environment; women and nation-building; military and economic development; economics and fiscal policy; maternal and reproductive health; role of international institutions in women's empowerment.