by NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller at the University of San Diego - WPS Conference

  • 28 Apr. 2017 -
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  • Last updated: 28 Apr. 2017 17:59

(As prepared)

Thank you, Andy.   [Andy Blum is the Executive Director of the Joan B. Kroc Institute of Peace and Justice at the University of San Diego.]
Well over a century ago, Susan B. Anthony said:

"Oh, if I could but live another century and see the fruition of all the work for women! There is so much yet to be done."

Well, I think we can all agree that there has been enormous progress over the past 100 years.

In fact, we’ll be celebrating one of the biggest milestones on the path toward equal rights for women in a little more than three years – in 2020: Women’s suffrage in the United States.

Women won the right to vote here with the ratification of the 19th Amendment. But in the decades leading up to 1920, Susan B. Anthony and many others protested and marched, insisted and resisted.

That’s how change happens. It doesn’t just fall out of the sky and into our laps.

As we take stock of issues related to Women, Peace and Security, I think we can safely say that much progress has been made. But Susan B. Anthony’s words still ring true: “There is so much yet to be done.”

I want to thank the University of San Diego not only for hosting this important conference but also for your ongoing efforts on gender awareness, particularly in the security and defence sector – which as we all know can be especially challenging. 

Today truly has been a fruitful day of informed, impassioned discussion, important insights and sharing best practices.

I am inspired by the wealth of knowledge and experience in this room.
And I am deeply honored to have the opportunity to speak with you this evening.

Just as the right to vote is a key milestone for women’s rights in the United States, there have been several milestones in NATO’s march toward greater gender equality.

Here’s a brief timeline:

In 1961, senior NATO female officers began organizing conferences to discuss career opportunities for women in the armed forces of the Alliance.

In 1976, the Military Committee officially recognized the Committee on Women in the NATO Forces – the CWINF.

In 1998, the Office of Women in the NATO Forces was created. It is now called the Office of the Gender Advisor.

Then in May 2009, CWINF’s mandate was expanded to support the integration of a gender perspective into NATO’s military operations.

This was specifically designed to support the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820, along with related resolutions.

The Committee has since been renamed the NATO Committee on Gender Perspectives.

At our 2014 Wales Summit, Allied leaders acknowledged that the integration of gender perspectives throughout NATO’s three essential core tasks – collective defence, crisis management and cooperative security – will contribute to a more modern, ready and responsive NATO.

Gender is an important focus of NATO’s cooperation with other international organizations – in particular the United Nations – and with civil society.

NATO is also taking action within its own organization and structures to promote gender equality and the participation of women.

Our Secretary General – Jens Stoltenberg – has been a strong advocate of gender perspectives and equality at NATO.  In 2014 he appointed NATO’s second Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security to serve as the high-level focal point on all aspects of NATO’s contributions to WPS.

Women now occupy several senior-level positions within NATO.

  • Our first female four-star officer now leads NATO Joint Force Command Naples.
  • A female Brigadier General serves as the Commander and Senior Military Representative of NATO Headquarters in Sarajevo.
  • A female Lieutenant General is the Commandant of the NATO Defense College in Rome.
  • Our first female NATO Spokesperson.
  • Today, seven Ministers of Defense in NATO countries are women.
  • And I happen to be NATO’s first female Deputy Secretary


Last year, the year I was appointed, marked the 40th anniversary of NATO’s Committee on Gender Perspectives. And the 55th anniversary of the very first conference of NATO female senior offices that was held in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Let me share a few statistics from our 2016 Annual Report. As you’ll see, the picture is still mixed, but there has been progress.

The percentage of women employees NATO-wide increased to 26% in 2016.

And the percentage of women in the International Staff remained at 39%.

Women constitute 16% of NATO’s International Military Staff.

The NATO International Military Staff Office of the Gender Advisor collected the following data for 2015:

  • 85% of NATO members have all positions in their armed forces open to women.
  • 11% of armed forces of NATO countries are made up of women, on average.
  • 6% of military personnel deployed in NATO operations in 2015 were women.
  • 65% of NATO members have support structures in place for single, divorced or widowed parents caring for children.
  • 62% of NATO members have programmes or policies to encourage work-life balance.
  • 52% of NATO members have programmes or measures in place to support parents when both are in the armed forces.
  • And fully 69% of NATO members have a military entity dealing with gender perspectives.


For NATO as an Alliance, UN Security Council Resolution 1325, gender mainstreaming and the integration of the gender perspectives into all our efforts and tasks is a top priority. There can be no lasting peace without inclusion.

Let’s be clear. Inclusion and gender equality relate back to the fundamental values on which the alliance was built – democracy, individual liberty, human rights and the rule of law.  

I would submit that we can only effectively defend those fundamental values if we actually live them. This is not only the right thing to do but also the smart thing to do, the effective thing to do. Because we know that mixed teams are smarter and perform better. Diverse teams are more innovative and creative.

And today we clearly need all the creativity our people have to offer. We can’t afford to leave talent untapped.

The NATO approach has been: keep it simple, keep it practical, and start at home. Our ambition is to make gender awareness a basic skill, and gender analysis a basic tool for every security provider, both civilian and military.

The objective is to deepen our efforts towards gender equality and the implementation of UNSCR 1325 – and related resolutions – throughout NATOs core tasks.

This action plan of the Alliance and its Partner Nations – a total of 55 nations – follows a two-track approach:

First, to reduce barriers for active and meaningful participation of women in our own structures, in all NATO and national levels.

And, second, to integrate gender perspectives in our daily work – that is to say, gender mainstreaming.

Gender mainstreaming is not an end in itself, a tick-the-box exercise. It’s a strategy to deliver better on our mandate, to effectively prevent conflict and secure lasting peace for all.

The final goal – the end state of this approach – is to position gender literacy as a defining aspect of our professionalism. That means making gender analysis a basic tool in the toolbox of every security provider and decision maker. To ensure that gender capacity is a core capability so that our institutions will recruit and promote on the basis of merit, not gender.

When we have moved from the “first ever” female commander to female commanders and soldiers – plural – that will be a sign of true progress.

The ability to apply gender as a perspective and an analytical tool has proven to be vital to our missions and to our advising and training efforts to local security forces, including in Kosovo and Afghanistan.  

We have experienced first-hand how gender perspectives become a force enabler and a tool to enhance operational effectiveness and the ability to achieve a mission.

Put simply: When it comes to gender, doing the right thing and doing things right can – and often does – go hand-in-hand.

The challenge now is to consistently apply, adapt and adjust gender-related lessons learned to today’s rapidly changing security environment. We have to demonstrate in practice the relevance of applying a gender lens to the complex security challenges of today.

Here it is important to analyze and understand the multiple roles women can play in resolving and preventing crises and conflicts. In other words, a gender perspective has to become part of a more multidimensional, comprehensive approach needed to not only fight the symptoms but address the root causes of today’s security threats.

This means making gender perspectives part of our core tasks and everyday business at NATO – which in turn will contribute to a more modern, ready and responsive Alliance.

The key to this is improving gender literacy at all levels, from the top down and the bottom up.

Research has shown there is a need for increased understanding of gender mainstreaming and the Women, Peace and Security agenda within the Alliance – and this is something we need to work on.  

One step for raising awareness and improving gender literacy is to develop the right tools for the toolbox and, more importantly, demonstrate how these tools can be utilized to achieve our objectives.

We need to clearly demonstrate the added value and increased efficiency that can result from the integration of gender perspectives.  One of the best ways to do this is through tailored training for different audiences at different levels because gender mainstreaming is not a one-size-fits-all proposition.

To become more adaptive and responsive, NATO has to initiate and maintain an active dialogue – bolstered by research, shared knowledge and best practices – with our allies and partners, other international organizations, and experts, civil society and academia.

This event – this conference – is a step in that direction and I hope we will continue and deepen this dialogue in the years ahead.  

It all comes down to this.

NATO and our partners are committed to removing barriers for women’s participation in the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts and in peace-building, and to reducing the risk of conflict-related and gender-based violence.

We are very aware that greater gender balance builds capacity.  It boosts the resilience of society, along with the readiness of our forces and the effectiveness of our operations.
So yes, NATO has made a great deal of progress.  We are moving in the right direction. But as Susan B. Anthony would be the first to remind us: There is so much yet to be done.
Thank you for your attention and your dedication to this important cause.