Only 11.1% of military personnel in the EU are women. This is despite the fact that women can no longer be legally barred from serving in the armed forces, since a 2000 ruling by the European Court of Justice. Nevertheless, in most European countries we are still a long way from having a balanced and diverse army. This is shown by the #SHEcurity Index, which examines the proportion of women in foreign and security policy, military, police, diplomacy, and the armaments industry in EU Member States and G20 countries.
Want to learn more about diversity in Europe’s armed forces? Check out our infographic below (click for a bigger version):
The results of the #SHEcurity Index, launched by MEP Hannah Neumann, were recently presented and discussed at an event on “Post-Patriarchal Security: Inclusion and Equity for the Other 55%”, organised by the think tank Friends of Europe.
Women who meet the same physical standards as their male comrades may be excluded (officially or not) from certain positions in the armed forces. In the UK, for example, three out of ten positions in the British Army were closed to women until 2016 – a clear case of gender discrimination. But women are not the only group that experiences discrimination in the military. In Germany, for example, homophobia and transphobia are still widespread in the Bundeswehr, and the high number of suspected racist cases has raised questions around whether Germany’s armed forces have a structural problem with racism and right-wing extremism.
For many years there were concerns that mixed-gender units would lack cohesion. However, studies show that such problems can be overcome through training and leadership and that, in the long term, diverse teams work even better than homogeneous teams. It is also an important part of the everyday work of soldiers to build relationships with local populations. In Afghanistan, for example, Coalition forces were able to build trust and gather information from local women, who were more likely to speak to female soldiers.
What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Anna, who says: “Women should have a meaningful political voice in the military and in oversight of armed forces… Women need to be meaningfully included, because we are 50% of the population.”
To get a response, we put Anna’s comment to Hannah Neumann, a German MEP from the European Greens. On the 20th anniversary of the UN Security Council Resolution on Women, Peace and Security, Hannah Neumann launched the #SHEcurity Index, in cooperation with a coalition of security think tanks and organisations. What would she say to Anna’s comment?
Next up, JBRS left us a comment saying: “Military forces should be integrated into society, be part of it, and citizens should not see the military as an enemy. The military is us.” Shouldn’t our armed forces, therefore, reflect the diversity of our societies?
We put this comment to Clare Hutchinson, NATO Special Representative on Women, Peace and Security for Gender Equality in the NATO Allied Forces. Would she agree with JBRS that our armed forces should reflect the diversity of our society?
Finally, we had a comment come in from Bruce, who thinks those countries which currently have mandatory military service (such as Austria) should expand the draft to include women as well. This is the approach Sweden has taken since 2017 and is one way to increase diversity in the armed forces.
How would Hannah Neumann respond?
What would Clare Hutchinson from NATO say?
Should there be greater diversity in the armed forces? What advantages could a more diverse military bring? How can we prevent discrimination in the military? Should compulsory military service, in the countries where it still exists, also be extended to women? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!