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Updated: 06-Oct-2006 Committee on Women in NATO Forces

Sofia, Bulgaria

29 September
2006

Questions & answers

to the Chairperson of the Committee on Women in the NATO Forces, Col Dr. MATSCHULAT, during an interview for the Military TV Channel in Sofia, Bulgaria on 29 Sep

Is the military profession attractive for women in NATO member-states?

According to the national reports of the NATO members – I can tell you categorically – Yes! Increasing numbers of military female personnel in all areas of the Armed Forces proves that the military profession is an attractive option for all those women who have the necessary skills and the right personal attitude to take up the challenge.

What is the percentage of women in NATO forces?

There is a wide range: Some countries have more than 10 % - other countries less than 1%.

What are the most attractive positions for service women?

Most of the female service members are in the traditional areas – medical service, staff positions and administrative sector, but there are also female jet pilots and even submarine commanders and  I would like to emphasize that the number of those is increasing every year.     

How do you think a woman copes with the severe military world which was considered to be a predominantly man’s world?

First of all, the military profession is not the only challenging environment where females are in the minority. However, we must remember that although there is a lower percentage of young women candidates who would like to serve in the Armed Forces, many of them graduate with top marks from the Military Academies and they are coping exceptionally well with their duties. The only advice I would give my sisters in arms is: be professional, be yourself, be correct – and never try to become a better man.

Why does a woman choose the military profession? Isn’t it against its nature?

I think such a question is better directed to our cultural origins and national stereotypes as a whole. It is society that creates the role of women as wifes and mothers. The qualities that are most important in all military jobs – things like integrity, moral courage, and determination – have nothing to do with gender.

Women always have more than one reason to join the army. They usually fall into five main categories: Interest in the profession, self-development and character building, the feeling of belonging to a family-group, curiosity and equal rights.

Could it be embarrassing for a woman to salute and to be subordinate to anyone?

Saluting is a kind of regard and expression of a subordinate´s respect for his/her supervisor. This custom is obligatory in the Armed Forces in accordance to regulation. Even in the civilian sector, employees are obliged to express their respect or even by standing up from their place of work during a supervisors´ presence.

In most militaries the tradition of saluting a senior officer is related to the officers´commission rather than to the individual. In other words:  when a subordinate salutes a senior officer he or she is saluting the officer´s commission which he or she has earned.

What do you think will be the future of an army with no servicewomen?

The supply of suitable males would run out! In fact building an Army without service women is not under consideration by any NATO nation – quite the opposite. The  demands of today´s security environment and the challenges presented require 100% of our expertise, not 50%.

Do you consider there should be special attitude towards servicewomen?

No – we, the Committee on Women in the NATO Forces, think that it is necessary to enable all service personnel, on an equal footing, to participate fully in the workforce and especially in consolidating peace and rebuilding conflict torn societies. In support of this, therefore it is of great importance to obtain a sound understanding of gender issues in our area of work.

Is there are a necessity for new rules to be elaborated, for emancipation in NATO forces, or women are treated as colleagues, just like men are?

Since 2004 the CWINF has been identifying various gender issues and ways of integrating gender persepectives into all aspects of NATO operations, not as a seperate issue, but as an aspect that permeates all action taken in the area. Gender mainstreaming should become routine with full regard to operational requirements in order to improve operational effectiveness.

It is a well known fact that generally women are more punctual in executing their duties? Is it so for women in NATO forces?

To my my mind this is often the case with a minority – if someone is conscientious, they do not only their best – but also to excel.

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