“Work hard, aim high and show respect.” This is one of the Mauritian values Her Excellency Ms Charlotte Pierre, British High Commissioner to Mauritius, learned from her parents. With this mantra in mind, she went on to have a successful career as a diplomat for the UK. Before her appointment in Mauritius, H.E. Ms Charlotte Pierre served overseas in regions like the Middle East and Africa. She shares to Investor’s Mag her journey as a diplomat, how she navigated this male-dominated world and how she’s planning to stand up for women’s rights in Mauritius through several projects and programmes.
Featured in Investor’s Mag, 20th Edition, March 22 – June 22
You were appointed as the British High Commissioner in Mauritius last year. What does this represent for you, and how does your Mauritian origins help in this key role?
It is a privilege to represent the UK in a country I know, love, and respect. I am British and proud to represent the UK. My heritage means I have a strong set of Mauritian values instilled in me by my parents : to work hard, aim high and show respect.
Can you tell us more about your journey before embracing your role as the British High Commissioner in Mauritius?
I joined the Foreign Office (as it was) in 2000. Since then, I worked in different roles for the Foreign Office and the UK Development for International Development, which have now merged. Like many of my generation, my career was massively influenced by 9/11. I have held jobs and overseas postings in countries with high political priorities. I am married to another diplomat and took a career break mid-career to follow him on a posting and be the primary carer for our then young family. I have still been able to enjoy great opportunities while having a family. I am proud and fortunate the UK government gives these sorts of 21st-century opportunities.
As a woman in a world largely dominated by men, how did you make space for your voice to be heard as you rose in your profession?
I joined a male-dominated environment. I was also often the only person of colour in a room. Confidence is key. It took me at least ten years to start believing in myself. I joined the Civil Service with a group of young women my age, and we formed a great support network. It ranged from supportive body language and interventions in meetings we might happen to be into commiserating over a glass of wine! But I also think working hard to ensure you have a strong reputation and being prepared is critical. Progress and being taken seriously will not be handed to you, and no one is entitled – you have to work hard to take it.
What was one formative experience (or more) that helped you with your leadership style and vision?
There have been a few, but I will focus on my first overseas posting. I was 26 and went to Uganda on my own. I had working-level responsibility for a UK aid programme worth £70 million, and my boss delegated lots to me. My job ranged from representing the UK in meetings with the government to election monitoring. The level of responsibility and variety gave me an immense confidence boost. It was also a big shock and my first serious people management role. Being responsible for my team’s output, welfare, and development from day one meant I had to learn fast. The experience taught me the importance of clarity of purpose/strategy, investing time in relationships with colleagues, and that you are only as good as your team is!
Can you share your biggest factor in your success and one obstacle that was hard to overcome?
My Dad taught me the importance of perspective and that is the key to success for me. When something goes wrong at work, it can feel like the end of the world. Yes, sometimes it is life-changing (especially in my line of work), but most of the time, it is not. My obstacle is self-doubt. That is something that never goes away. I find a good way to try and manage it down is to force myself to do things that terrify me, e.g., TV interviews, etc. When you master your fears, the doubts reduce.
“It is a no-brainer. Women form 50% of society… If women participated in labour markets on an equal footing with men, this could add over USD 25 trillion to global GDP in 2025”Charlotte Pierre | British High Commissioner to Mauritius
In recent years, women empowerment has been recognized as essential for improving many aspects such as social development or gender equality. According to you, how is empowering women vital for society?
It is a no-brainer. Women form 50% of society. Of course, they should drive and shape it. A society without gender equality is both a socially and economically poorer one. If women participated in labour markets on an equal footing with men, this could add over USD 25 trillion to global GDP in 2025. Increased GDP, assumingly shared equally, drives up education, health, and overall social wellbeing.
Is women empowerment one of your priorities here in Mauritius? Are there any projects/programs planned?
The UK has a strong global reputation for standing up for the rights of women and girls around the world. Our work is transforming lives and helping to build longer-term prosperity, stability, and a fairer and freer world that will benefit all.
This International Women’s Day, we celebrated the UK’s work to champion gender equality and our heightened ambition to make more progress than ever before 2022. We are proud to work with partners such as We Empower and the Mauritius Institute of Directors’ Women Directors Forum to ensure that women, across sectors, are equipped to achieve their full potential and hold decision-making positions.
In 2020, Mauritius benefitted from central UK Government funding for the She Trades outlook project, the International Trade Centre (ITC)’s premier global business event connecting women entrepreneurs with buyers, investors, and partners. We hope to take this project to the next level this year!
How are gender equality and women empowerment handled in the UK? Can you give us some key elements?
Women’s rights are human rights, enshrined in conventions that the UK government supports strongly. When we challenge discrimination and gender inequality, we break the bias for everyone to benefit. The UK’s most senior diplomat (the Foreign Secretary) is a woman. Together with my Deputy, we now form the first female leadership team at the British High Commission here in Mauritius. All the UK Ambassadors in the G7 countries are female. This shows the UK walks the talk on gender in our foreign and development policy overseas.
The formation of FCDO has created an exciting opportunity for us to deliver at a greater scale and forge new partnerships. This year, we will be publishing a new strategy for Women and Girls that sets out our ambition, combining diplomacy and development levers and explaining our mission to educate girls, empower women, and end violence (the 3 Es).
Over the past five years, many countries have been actively seeking to roll back progress on the rights of women and girls at national levels and challenging established standards in the international sphere. We will not stand by. Our new International Development Strategy and new Women and Girls Strategy will set out firm commitments and our diplomatic network will step up efforts to ensure they amplify the UK’s voice and take proactive action to empower women and girls across the globe.
The UK has pledged to stand up for the right of every girl to 12 years of quality education. We are leading the charge to accelerate the pace of a global education recovery that all girls can benefit from quickly.
As a leading global voice on Women, Peace and Security, we continue to push for women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in all peace efforts. We will use the development of the UK’s next WPS National Action Plan to drive forward progress to address the woeful lack of women mediators and negotiators and the concerning increase in global reprisals against women peacebuilders.
We are proud of what we have achieved so far, including successful co-hosting the Global Education Summit with Kenya, which raised a record US$4 billion for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), using our co-leadership of the Global Action Coalition on gender-based violence to push back against the rollback of rights and championing the importance of gender in the fight against climate change at COP26.