Today, as our countries commemorate International Women’s Day, we reflect on the rules and norms that have helped advance global security. Today, we reflect on shared principles and relish in our collective strength. And together, we lay claim to tomorrow – to a press for progress, greater peace, prosperity and cooperation.
Whether it’s ‘peace through strength’ or ‘peace through diplomacy,’ our Armed Forces will deliver on that promise. But we must ask ourselves, is today’s military culture worth advancing? Have our Armed Forces honed the requisite skills to successfully compete in this increasingly complex, dynamic, and networked world? Are we as integrated as we claim to be, as equal as we strive to be, and as effective as we aim to be?
The short answer is “yes, but…”
When it comes to gender perspectives and advancing gender integration, changing mindsets in large institutions, like NATO, requires a continuous press for progress.
Standards that measure leadership need adjusting.
Don’t misunderstand us, muscle strength and sheer endurance will still be required to maintain our competitive advantage. Male or Female.
But attributes like intellectual agility, cognitive empathy, and gender diversity must also be cultivated, celebrated, and sought out. Trust and collaboration - so vital to our ability to work together - must be strengthened at every turn. And Commanders, in all instances, must be leading agents of this change.
So while some dismiss ‘gender integration’ as a women’s issue, we consider it Commander’s business.
We consider it everyone’s business.
Defence leaders are committing time and resources to getting this right - especially when it comes to changing mindsets. We are leading our organization to modify and ultimately change behavior by setting the example. We are holding ourselves and our people accountable for unprofessional conduct, in whatever form it takes. And we are making every effort to ensure that our female personnel have equal access to all possible opportunities, and that they don’t drop out of the pipeline before reaching leadership levels.
Why? Because we can’t afford to let that happen.
It is not enough for our respective militaries to work well with each other. Our Armed Forces must also earn and preserve the trust of our respective civilian populations. As defense institutions, we earn that trust by demonstrating an unwavering respect for human rights and a commitment to protecting our citizens in combat zones. And as service members, we trust in our institutions to harness the full potential of all of our personnel.
Every year, tens of thousands of women and girls are victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. And women overwhelmingly bear the burden of any insecurity or instability in the world – which, in turn, means they must be a large part of international security solutions.
Clearly, there is still work to be done.
To that, we ask: How accepting are we of the principles and practicality of gender inclusion?
From our combined 29 nations, twenty have a National Action Plan to advance the principles of Women in Peace and Security. Beyond the numbers, women are serving all over the world, in all sorts of ways. They are highly trained, extremely competent, and tremendously capable.
For these reasons, we, the leaders of NATO’s home in North America, Allied Command Transformation, are taking steps to improve the integration of women in defence and security institutions across North America and Europe. For us, it is not about leveling the playing field. It is about making sure we put the best possible team on the field. It is about building diverse yet cohesive groups, made up of people with different perspectives, life experiences, and strengths. It is about improving operational effectiveness while achieving organizational excellence. It is about pressing for progress.
General Denis Mercier, French Air Force, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation.
Admiral Manfred Nielson, German Navy, Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Transformation.
Air Marshal Sir Graham Stacey, Royal Air Force, Chief of Staff to Supreme Allied Commander Transformation.
- 08 March 2018 -