Pitch Chief of Defence Admiral Rob Bauer Chiefs of Defence Network Meeting on Women, Peace and Security UN HQ

Pitch by the Netherlands Chief of Defence Admiral Rob Bauer at the Chiefs of Defence Network Meeting on Women, Peace and Security UN HQ on 10 July 2019.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues,

Here we are…  
A room full of male CHODS , trying to figure out how to recruit more women in uniform. And how to create gender parity in our organisations.

All this in a meeting of just 2 hours… quite a challenge!

Since we promised to keep it short, I will make just 3 points.

  1. We are not as modern or as open-minded as we might think.
    This starts with the selection process. Without realising it, people within defence organisations hire people who look and think like them.

    If we want to become more gender sensitive we must:
     - first become aware of our prejudices and our misconceptions about gender roles
    - and then select people who have strengths that are different from our own.
  2. We have to break down barriers in our missions and in our organisations.
    This starts with making sure our logistics are safe for everyone. This can be as simple as making sure our equipment and uniforms fit women as well. It seems self-evident… but unfortunately it is not.

    In the Netherlands, we are now taking this into account in the design for a new battlefield uniform.

    This is an example of a practical barrier, but the bigger barriers are ingrained in our institutions, in our policies and in our way of thinking.

    Sometimes even well-intended measures can end up having an obstructive outcome.

    For instance: women in the Netherlands armed forces who have children are banned from deployment in the entire first year. This policy is meant to protect women, but why don’t we at least give them the option to go? Why don’t we ask them, instead of thinking for them?
  3. This brings me to my final point. We have to actively change our way of thinking.
    Next year will be the 20th anniversary of resolution 1325, but do we have cause for celebration?
    There have been good political initiatives for creating gender parity. Now we have to translate these into concrete measures and actions.

    We have to match international promises with national efforts. This means: dedicating time and resources to actually research and assess the barriers and shortcomings of our organisations.
    Appointing a gender advisor can greatly stimulate this process.

    The Netherlands has deployed military gender advisors to Afghanistan since 2009, and to the UNIFIL-mission in Lebanon since 2017. And as of this year, we have also appointed a gender advisor in our own Department of Operations. This adviser will help to mainstream gender in our operations.

    But changing a mind-set starts earlier, it starts with training. That is why the Netherlands armed forces are working on integrating diversity in all training curriculums. We are also actively involved in the UN Female Military Officers Course and in the ‘Comprehensive Approach to Gender in Operations’ of the European Security and Defence College.

    I’m sure some of you are thinking: “With everything that’s going on in my organisation, I’m not sure if we can manage this.” I have these same thoughts. But in my view, having more women in uniform and more diversity in our organisations is the only way we can move forward and become more effective. For the simple reason that: The military is about teams. And strong teams are diverse.