Is Secretary of State now a woman's job?

As someone who worked in Clinton’s State Department — and has written frequently about the importance of having more women in high foreign policy positions and the difference that can make to the substance as well as the style of U.S. foreign policy — I think the question of whether women are particularly well-suited to nurturing relationships, marshaling cooperation and conducting tough negotiations around the world is worth asking.

In some ways the answer is yes. Back in the 1980s, Joseph Nye coined the term “soft power,” meaning the power of attraction rather than the power of coercion. (And by attraction, I mean the lure of a nation’s culture and values, not its diplomats’ looks.) But soft power really took off when he argued in 2005 that it was the means to success in world politics. He argued that the United States succeeds when we can persuade the rest of the world to want what we want, rather than imposing our will. Given that women are far less likely to be able to use coercive power than men are, we have been skilled for centuries at getting others to want what we want.

Moreover, I think many women take more readily to the “smart power” approach to foreign policy that Clinton has pioneered. In a nutshell, this approach entails using a wide spectrum of tools in addition to the hard power of military and economic might to address global problems.