Working women make our world happier, safer

By not including women and gender perspectives, our secuirty assessment is inherently incomplete.

By Joan Johnson-Freese (Gender Bender)

Published: Thu 19 Sep 2019, 9:33 PM

Last updated: Thu 19 Sep 2019, 11:36 PM

Gender equality is more often than not viewed as a social-justice and feminist issue rather than a national-security issue - nice to do, but expendable and low priority to realpolitik concerns. Such views are common even though studies have repeatedly shown that gender inequality is a global concern, linked to domestic and international conflict, radicalisation and economics. Even within the world's leading superpower, recognition about the role of gender equality to national security is spotty at best. Such recognition is essential due to US global strategic influence and because prejudice hurts US national security.
The strategic value of achieving and maintaining gender equality remains largely neglected even though, consequent to the #MeToo movement, the media has become sensitive - some might say hypersensitive - to women's issues at home and abroad. UN Security Council Resolution 1325, approved in 2000, is considered the legal bedrock of the Women, Peace and Security agenda. It was passed in recognition of the changing nature of warfare, specifically more intrastate warfare where civilians are increasingly targeted while women and women's views are excluded from peace-participation processes. The agenda aims at increasing women's roles in security-related decision-making, broadly defined, and ensuring consideration of gendered perspectives in policymaking. A gendered perspective could mean, for example, taking into account that providing agricultural aid on the basis of land ownership may exclude women in many countries, even when women are the primary agricultural workers who best know what is needed and how to use the aid. During a peace process, a gendered perspective would consider issues like removal of land mines in areas where women walk to gather water or wood for cooking along with more male-centred concerns like the surrender of weapons.
Women play or could play a role in abating each of the 10 global threats including the following categories:
Cybercrime: Research indicates there will be a shortage of 1.8 million cybersecurity professionals by 2022. Yet women occupy only 11 per cent of cybersecurity jobs.
Terrorism: Mothers, wives, daughters and sisters have close access within families and communities and can be trained to recognise signs of radicalisation and proclivities for violence and steps to take. The US Institute of Peace describes how during the US war in Afghanistan, Afghan women were trained to detect and prevent extreme violence. Further, it was an all-women intelligence unit known as "the Sisterhood" that tracked down Osama bin Laden.
The economy: A McKinsey study found that advancing gender equality could add $12 trillion to the global economy by 2025. Closing the gender gap and providing women the same access to land, technology, financial services, education and markets as men would result in increased food production and reduce hunger for up to 150 million people.
The world and traditional gender roles of men fighting battles and women cooking meals and caring for homes and children have changed. Women are fighting alongside men in the military, including in ground combat positions. Markedly more women than men earned certificates and bachelor's degrees during this century, 60 per cent for black women and 56 per cent for white women, and militaries cannot overlook such a large pool in seeking talent.
Achieving security begins with an accurate assessment of the security environment.
By not including women and gender perspectives, that assessment is inherently incomplete. Yet the women, peace and security agenda is largely unknown to both security practitioners and the public, to the detriment of all. Researchers, the media, educators and political leaders can help correct this deficit by connecting the dots among the many idiosyncratic stories on gender imbalances.
-IPI Global Observatory
Joan Johnson-Freese is a Professor at the Naval War College in Newport, US

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