Stéfanie von Hlatky is an Associate Professor of Political Studies at Queen’s University and a Fellow with the Centre for International and Defence Policy. In 2008, she founded the organization Women in International Security – Canada , which is dedicated to women’s advancement in the security and defence field.
What are, in your opinion, the main trends in military interventions?
There is increasing emphasis on training and capacity building efforts, namely working with the military and law enforcement in the host country to improve security practices.
As one of the founders of Women in International Security Canada, can you tell us about what it is and what it represents?
The organization has been active for more than a decade now and provides a platform for women in the security and defence field, a field where women are traditionally under-represented, especially at the highest levels of leadership. By offering greater visibility for women and fostering the next generation of women leaders, we are doing our part to diversify the field of international security.
How do you think more women can improve the effectiveness of the armed forces?
Any organization with informal and formal barriers to women ultimately suffers because it is neglecting 50 % of the population in its recruitment efforts. For any open position, you want as much competition as possible to ensure you have the best and brightest within your organization. You can only do this if you are reaching the entire labour force. We are seeing encouraging changes in militaries all over the world, implementing reforms that ensure the armed forces will recruit the best candidates, regardless of gender.
How can the armed forces attract more women? And do you think that they are, in modern ages, still less likely than men to consider a military career?
The data does show that fewer women than men consider a military career, which is not surprising considering that militaries have traditionally stunted women’s professional development by making certain roles and occupations closed to women. Militaries have also struggled with sexual harassment and assault, which disproportionally affects women. Given this legacy, it is no surprise that recruiting women will prove more arduous. But I have no doubt that, with strong military leadership, these types of changes are possible and armed forces can certainly earn the reputation of being an employer of choice, adhering to the highest professional standards. Militaries that have adopted this mindset are more successful at recruiting women.
What are your thoughts on military culture that is conducive to the abuse of women in its ranks?
The abuse of women and men is abhorrent and unacceptable. In the military or in other professional settings, eliminating such behavior is an urgent priority. Harmful behaviour also undermines trust in the chain of command and negatively impacts organizational effectiveness. Both of those things are essential to be successful on the battlefield, so reforming military culture is not only the right thing to do but also smart for the organization.
Interview by Urška Kos