Military Women in the NATO Armed Forces

Citation:

García, Sarah.1999. “Military Women in the NATO Armed Forces.” Minerva: Quarterly Report on Women and the Military 17 (2): 33-82.

Author: Sarah García

Abstract:

In June 1998, officers (men and women) assembled in Brussels to discuss means to improve equity and expand the employment of women in the NATO armed forces. About 90 comrades in arms from fourteen allied nations, plus guests from the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, now new NATO members, as well as from  Sweden, met to discuss the committee's goals and objectives. This first-time participation by Partner nations unequivocally enhanced the committee's work, especially where it involves mentoring, equality, and recruiting programs. The dialogue and cooperation between Allied and Partner nations at the conference was mutually advantageous to NATO's mission readiness capabilities and efforts to ensure the recognition and empowerment of all military personnel. The Committee prepared an "Issue Book" containing recommendations and rationales for the Military Committee and national authorities to consider when determining integration policy/initiative within their armed forces. That was the first time the committee had developed such a comprehensive product geared specifically to focus NATO in this process. In support of NATO's Enhanced Partnership for Peace (PfP) program, which began five years ago and centered on "fostering military co-operation between NATO and non-NATO states to, among other aims, strengthen the ability to undertake peacekeeping and humanitarian missions and developing military forces better able to operate with those of NATO members," 8 the 1998 Brussels Conference sparked the beginning of the Committee on Women's cooperative dialogue with PfP nations. For example, discussions centered on equality, in terms of training and promotion (rank and career opportunities); utilization and development via recruitment, mentoring, and retention; and improving the quality of life for women in uniform by eliminating gender discrimination and sexual harassment. Since then, Partner nations have expressed  interest in the committee, its goals and objectives, and assistance from the Women In the NATO Forces (WINF) office. In the five decades of its existence, the NATO alliance has "evolved from a traditional military alliance for collective defence into a political-military organisation for security cooperation, with an extensive bureaucracy and complex decision-making processes." The alliance is now redefining its mission as a result of the end of the Cold War. In an even briefer span of time, the position of women in the military has undergone meaningful change in many NATO nations, and "As these changes take place, the disparate gender politics among its member governments take on even more importance." The debate over women's participation in the military is far from over. Despite those debates, new threats to NATO's collective security, the reorganization of armies and international staffs, advanced weapons technology, and new peacekeeping operations challenge traditional military structures and functions and make the utilization of all available human resources, men and women, imperative. Integrating women into any military is an evolutionary process, now underway in all NATO member nations. Personnel policies that insure a military establishment of the highest quality possible with the resources available are an essential part of this process.

Topics: Combatants, Female Combatants, Gender, Women, Men, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Gender Equity, International Organizations, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Peacekeeping Regions: Europe, Central Europe, Nordic states, Northern Europe, Western Europe Countries: Belgium, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Sweden

Year: 1999

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