Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Oxford Research Encyclopedias, Politics. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 06 October 2022

Gender and the Military in Western Democracieslocked

Gender and the Military in Western Democracieslocked

  • Helena CarreirasHelena CarreirasDepartment of Sociology, Public Policy, and Research Methodology, Lisbon University Institute

Summary

Military institutions have been considered “gendered organizations” because gender is persistently related therein to the production and allocation of material and symbolic resources. Western states’ militaries consistently, even if unevenly, display three basic traits through which gendering occurs: the existence of structural divisions of labor and power along gender lines, organizational culture and ideology based on a distinction between masculinity and femininity, and patterns of interaction and identity formation that reflect these structural and ideological constraints.

Although women’s representation has been growing, and women have been accessing new roles, positions, and occupations in unprecedented numbers, their participation is statistically limited and substantially uneven. Notable differences between countries also exist. At a macro-sociological level, factors that explain these differences relate to the degree of convergence between armed forces and society, external political pressures, military organizational format, and the level of gender equality in society at large.

From a micro-sociological perspective, research shows that, because of their minority situation and less valued status in an organization normatively defined as masculine, women still have to face the negative consequences of tokenism: performance pressures, social isolation, and role encapsulation. However, this research also highlights two important conclusions. The first is that there is significant variation in individual and organizational responses depending on context; the second, that conditions for successful gender integration depend on specific combinations of structural, cultural, and policy dimensions: the existence or absence of institutional support, changes in the composition of groups, increase in the number of women, type of work, occupational status, level of shared experience, changing values of younger cohorts, and quality of leadership.

The Women, Peace and Security agenda, evolving from the approval of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 in 2000, has become the major reference framework to evaluate progress in this respect at both domestic and international levels. Despite the existence of an extremely robust set of norms, policies, and instruments, and the recognition of their transformative potential, results have been considered to lag behind expectations. Improving implementation and enhancing gender integration in the military will require context-sensitive and knowledge-driven policies, the reframing of an essentialist discourse linking women’s participation in international missions to female stereotypical characteristics, and greater congruence between national policies and the international agenda.

Subjects

  • Governance/Political Change
  • Groups and Identities
  • Policy, Administration, and Bureaucracy

You do not currently have access to this article

Login

Please login to access the full content.

Subscribe

Access to the full content requires a subscription