Are Her Boots on the Ground? Women’s Deployment on NATO-led Operations

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Shoemaker, Meaghan
International Relations , NATO , Gender , Mixed Method , Deployment , Organizational Culture , Military , Canadian Armed Forces , Danish Armed Forces
While women’s representation in many western military forces is increasing, the composition of troop contributions to NATO-led operations is not following suit, despite policy commitments acknowledging the importance of diversity in operations. Are Her Boots on the Ground? Women’s Deployment on NATO-led Operations questions why this may be the case. Determining what factors influence women’s military deployments and participation is essential to meet NATO’s international commitments, and member states’ ongoing commitments to gender equality. Using a mixed-method approach comprised of interview data with NATO elites and Canadian and Danish force generators, and a survey of military members from Canada and Denmark, I assess common explanations for barriers to women’s participation in masculine occupations. I argue that hidden resistances that comprise military organizational cultures hinder women’s deployment on NATO-led operations. These resistances are taken for granted and considered unchanging elements of military service, and include gendered assumptions held by force generators, the force generation process itself, and a hands-off approach to committing to more women on operations by NATO, Canada, and Denmark. In short: it is not simply that there are not enough women to deploy. The dynamics at play are much more complex. Ultimately, with a blind eye turned to these processes and assumptions, women will continue to be left behind on NATO-led operations.
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