Isobel Coleman

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Isobel Coleman
Occupation Ambassador
Nationality American
Subject United Nations, Middle East, Democratization, Economic Development, Foreign assistance, Women in Development

Isobel Coleman is currently the U.S. Representative to the United Nations for UN Management and Reform with the rank of Ambassador.[1] She was previously a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (2002-2014), CEO of a healthcare recruitment company (2000-2002), and a management consultant with McKinsey & Company (1991-2000).

Education and Personal life[edit]

Coleman is a graduate of Mamaroneck High School in Mamaroneck, NY and Princeton University, magna cum laude (1987). At Princeton, she majored in East Asian Studies and earned her BA degree in public policy and international affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School. As a Marshall Scholar, she attended Oxford University (1987-1990) where she completed M.Phil. and D.Phil. degrees in international relations. She is married to Dr. Struan Coleman, an orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery,[2] who is also the team physician for the New York Mets. They live in New York with their five children.

Early career[edit]

Coleman started as a management consultant with McKinsey & Co in New York in 1992 and was elected partner in the firm’s financial institutions group in 1998. At McKinsey, she worked primarily with global financial service firms, including insurance, reinsurance and credit card companies, global wholesale and retail banks. She also worked with the McKinsey Global Institute and in a pro-bono capacity with the New York City Board of Education. She left McKinsey to become Chief Executive Officer of NursingHands, Inc., a web-based business that provided continuing education, e-commerce and job placement for healthcare professionals.[3] Coleman sold NursingHands in 2002 to strategic investor Jobson PLC, which merged the company with its multimedia property NurseWeek. In 2004, the combined business was bought by the media company Gannett.[4]

The Council on Foreign Relations[edit]

Returning to international affairs, Coleman became a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, where she focused on the political economy of the Middle East. In 2002, she founded CFR’s Women and Foreign Policy program to focus foreign policy attention on the importance of improving the status of women around the world. In 2010, she became the founding director of CFR’s Civil Society, Markets and Democracy program.

Coleman is well-known for her writing on women and economic development, including her groundbreaking article, “The Payoff From Women’s Rights” (Foreign Affairs, May 2004).[5] She has also published widely about gender in the Middle East, including her 2010 book Paradise Beneath Her Feet: How Women are Transforming the Middle East (Random House),[6] which the Los Angeles Times described as “outstanding”[7] and The Economist as “nuanced.”.[8] In 2013, she delivered a talk at TedxMidAtlantic on how women are transforming the Middle East.[9]

While at CFR, Coleman also published on a broad range of economic and political issues, including the challenge of post-revolution transition in Middle East countries such as Egypt and Tunisia,[10] youth unemployment in the Middle East,[11] and the region’s need for fuel subsidy reform.[12] She is the author, co-author and editor of numerous books, including Pathways to Freedom: Political and Economic Lessons From Democratic Transitions (Council on Foreign Relations, 2013),[13] The Unfinished Revolution: Voices from the Global Fight for Women’s Rights (Seven Stories Press, 2012),[14] Restoring the Balance: A Middle East Strategy for the Next President (Brookings Institution Press, 2008),[15] and Strategic Foreign Assistance: Civil Society in International Security (Hoover Press, 2006).[16]


On September 12, 2014, President Barack Obama nominated Coleman to be U.S. Representative to the United Nations for UN Management and Reform. She appeared before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations for a confirmation hearing on December 2, 2014. In her statement before the Committee, Coleman noted the significant gap between the promise of the UN and the reality of its shortcomings, and vowed to ensure that the “UN is deploying its resources in the most efficient and effective way.”[17] She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on December 16, 2014.


In 2007, she was named the Isabel Benham Award winner by the Women’s Bond Club (WBC) of New York.[18] This award includes the privilege of directing a $25,000 donation from the WBC to a charity of the winner’s choice. In 2011, Newsweek named Coleman one of the “150 Women Who Shake the World.” In 2013, she was the recipient of the Dr. Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award from Tufts University.

Other Endeavors[edit]

Coleman has served on multiple non-profit boards, including Student Sponsor Partners; the National Outdoor Leadership School; American Corporate Partners; and Plan International USA.

See also[edit]


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