Isobel Coleman is senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York, where she directs CFR’s civil society, markets, and democracy initiative and the women and foreign policy program. Her areas of expertise include democratization, civil society, economic development, regional gender issues, educational reform, and microfinance.
She is the author and coauthor of numerous publications, including Paradise Beneath Her Feet: How Women are Transforming the Middle East (Random House, 2010), Restoring the Balance: A Middle East Strategy for the Next President (Brookings Institution Press, 2008), and Strategic Foreign Assistance: Civil Society in International Security (Hoover Institution Press, 2006).
Over the centuries and throughout the world, women have struggled for equality and basic rights. Their challenge in the Middle East has been intensified by the rise of a political Islam that too often condemns women's empowerment as Western cultural imperialism or, worse, anti-Islamic. In her new book, Paradise Beneath Her Feet, Isobel Coleman shows how Muslim women and men are fighting back with progressive interpretations of Islam to support women's rights in a growing movement of Islamic feminism.
Coleman journeys through the strategic crescent of the greater Middle East to reveal how activists are working within the tenets of Islam to create economic, political, and educational opportunities for women. Coleman argues that these efforts are critical to bridging the conflict between those championing reform and those seeking to oppress women in the name of religious tradition.
Dr. Coleman's writings have also appeared in publications such as Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the Washington Post, the Financial Times, International Herald Tribune, USA Today, the Christian Science Monitor, and Forbes, and online venues such as TheAtlantic.com and CNN.com. She is a frequent speaker at academic, business, and policy conferences. In 2010, she served as the track leader for the Girls and Women Action Area at the Clinton Global Initiative.
Prior to joining the Council on Foreign Relations, Dr. Coleman was CEO of a healthcare services company and a partner with McKinsey & Co. in New York. A Marshall scholar, she holds a BA in public policy and East Asian studies from Princeton University and MPhil and DPhil degrees in international relations from Oxford University. She serves on several non-profit boards, including Plan USA and Student Sponsor Partners.