The Role of Women in the Armed Forces of NATO Countries: Military Constraints and Professional Identities


Carreiras, Helena. 1999. “The Role of Women in the Armed Forces of NATO Countries: Military Constraints and Professional Identities.” Minerva: Quarterly Report on Women and the Military 17 (3-4): 46-57.

Author: Helena Carreiras


These data indicate that some of the items included in the core “institutional” dimension have acquired major importance. “Attraction to the discipline and the structured environment of the armed forces” is indeed the reason most commonly given to justify the enlistment decision. It is immediately followed by the “will to serve my country” and the “possibility to develop a prestigious activity.” One of the “life-style” dimensions of institutional factors has also a strong weight: “the possibility of doing something different, previously closed to women.” As in the earlier cases cited, Portuguese military women seem to have been attracted by the uniqueness of the armed forces more than by mere circumstantial factors or the search for labor/economic security. More than a job or an “occupation,” military service is above all a challenge and a distinctive activity where structure and innovation coexist. That seems to be the main conclusion, but occupational dimensions are not absent: almost three-fourths of the women still consider job security or the chance to find better professional opportunities than in civilian life an important reason to join the armed forces. If only the initial motivations to enlistment are considered, it is thus possible to identify the common presence of “institutional” and “occupational” features, a pattern that has been defined in theoretical approaches as “pragmatic professionalism.”

Topics: Combatants, Female Combatants, Gender, Women, Livelihoods, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Security

Year: 1999

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