January 4, 2018

Women in the Estonian Defence Forces: Motivation, Attitudes, Experience and Challenges

“Women officers, NCOs and conscripts should become an ordinary sight, not an extraordinary phenomenon in Estonia. In the present-day high-tech national defence, there is no reason to differentiate between people on the basis of gender and to assume that defence is only men’s work… Among other things, we need to change the attitudes in our society that do not favour the participation of women in the military… It is particularly pleasing that the more active involvement of women is supported by current service personnel.”
Hannes Hanso, Chairman of the National Defence Committee of the Riigikogu, former Minister of Defence

Increasing the percentage of women in military service is a societal and political imperative which, by aligning the armed forces with broader societal trends and values framework, maintains the societal legitimacy of the armed forces. However, it is also a means to achieving functional goals related to the mission of the armed forces – enhancing military capability and ensuring better military defence for the country. Openness to greater women’s participation in the military expands the pool of talent, skills and competencies which the armed forces can draw upon in pursuit of their mission.

The policy approved by Estonia’s Minister of Defence in 2017 encourages women to participate more in military service. The stipulated policy measures include various activities related to the improvement of the EDF working environment and enabling women to serve in all military units as well their equal treatment with men in the assignment of professions. In line with a principle of evidence-based policymaking, they also provide for more thorough studying of gender issues in the military, including collection and analysis of sociological data.

Understanding the motivation of women to join and serve in the military, appreciating their service experience and addressing the challenges of integrating them effectively into the work environment and overall mission and tasks of the EDF are important factors in the recruitment, retention and successful performance of women in the EDF. This report, based on a survey conducted in the EDF, highlights many pertinent issues and could serve as a basis for further continuous improvements in personnel policies, training programmes, leadership approaches and management practices in the EDF.

Download: Women in the Estonian Defence Forces: Motivation, Attitudes, Experiences and Challenges (PDF)