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NATO

Women in NATO - An interview with Dr Stefanie Babst

30.04.2014 | 00:04
Dr Stefanie Babst, Head of Strategic Capability, Emerging Security Challenges Division, talks to Eleni Panayiotou and OnAlert about the role of women in NATO.

The subject of women in NATO has been talked about widely. Mainly due to the fact that the Alliance in its 65 year history has never had a female Secretary General and that according to recent figures only 17% of staff are female.

During the interview Dr Babst mentions that women find themselves in a very “lonely place”. She states that there were moments where in a team of 27 people, 25 were in fact men. This means that the composition of the two sexes and of the selection boards at NATO are mainly made up of men. Essentially NATOhires women but they hire women for junior jobs, they hire women for secretarial jobs, for translation jobs… but when it comes to deciding who should become a deputy assistant secretary general, who should become a director of a given task, of a given subject, of a given structure, then the selection is very often made in support of men", says Babst.

Of course this is not a NATO problem only, but because Defence and Security has been a male dominated world for a very long time NATO is faced with this problem perhaps more than other international organisations.

According to Dr Babst this is critical matter which requires much thought since when, in an International organisation in the 21st century, only 17% of total staff are women of which only a handful find themselves in top positions then it is only natural that one should ask the question on whether the selection process is fair and whether perhaps it would be a good idea for a quota to be put in place.

One can’t of course be too judgemental due to the fact that where women are concerned in the Security sector, progress has been made in the past few years, albeit slow. In the interview Dr Babst explains the impact which the implementation of UN Resolution 1325 has had and how the Resolution has attempted to raise political awareness about the fact that “millions of women and girls especially in crisis regions in war torn countries have a very difficult life”. According to Babst, NATO in the past 3-4 years has played an active role in identifying areas where it could actually make a contribution in support of the three main pillars of the resolution, which are: to protect, to empower and to help women participate in decision making. Through this it becomes evident that the role women play in international organisations such as NATO and more specifically in the Security sector is without a doubt important and necessary.

The recent elections in Afghanistan also become a talking point as Dr Babst explains the role which women play in Afghan society. She elaborates on NATOs role in the integration of women to society in Afghanistan which was extremely important; the question which remains is how successful NATOs role becomes after ISAFs departure at the end of 2014.
Contrary to research in the Gender Studies sector, that has shown that women play a crucial part in security challenges, Dr Babst states that there is no such evidence which places gender at the core of security challenges to NATO. A female contribution to this narrative however is extremely important "as to the different competencies and skill sets which women will bring to the table", says Babst.

Dr Babst remains skeptical as to how long it will take for women to have the same treatment as men in International Organisations such as NATO as “we would probably have to wait another 50 years for that to happen” she says.

THE INTERVIEW




 

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