A few quick points about developments in women in combat. An article published this morning quotes Chief of the Defence Force General Hurley as saying that, as a result of examining the Canadian experience, all combat arms would now likely be opened up to women at the same time.
At Senate Estimates in May General Hurley stated the following lessons learned from the Canadians:
- A targeted proportion of women in combat arms will not define success;
- It is better to recruit 1 or 2 women into combat arms rather than wait until a critical mass is formed;
- Don’t separate women into a distinctive group; they’re there to be part of a team.
The ADF was smart in engaging and hosting a Canadian military delegation in May and has now formulated a cautious approach informed by these experiences.
The bottom line is that, political decision-making aside, this issue is being developed in Australia via research. While women in combat continues to provoke emotional debate spurred by anecdotal exchanges based often on legitimate concerns, there is a lot of research available related to women in combat that could usefully inform discussion. The following are but a few:
- Cawkill et al, ‘Women in Ground Close Combat Roles: The Experiences of other Nations and a Review of the Academic Literature’, UK Ministry of Defence, 2009, PDF here.
- Felman and Hanlon, ‘Count Us In: The Experiences of Female War, Peacemaking, and Peacekeeping Veterans’, Armed Forces & Society, April 2012, available here, research based on experiences of Australian female veterans.
- Fasting and Sand, ‘Gender and Military Issues: a Categorized Research Bibliography’, The Norwegian Defence University College, 2010, PDF here.
- Harrell et al, ‘The Status of Gender Integration in the Military: Analysis of Selected Occupations’, RAND Corporation, 2002, available here.
- Major J. Rogers, ‘Gender Integration in the New Zealand Infantry’, US Army Command and Staff College thesis, 2001, available here.
- Nuciari, ‘Women in the Military: Sociological Arguments for Integration’, Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research, 2006, available here.
- Lindstrom et al, ‘The Mental Health of U.S. Military Women in Combat Support Occupations’, Journal of Women’s Health, 2006, available here.
After a decade of Afghanistan and Iraq, I’m sure we’ll see more Australian-based research emerging. Until then, some valuable thoughts from Canadian military delegation member, Lieutenant Colonel Jennie Carignan:
“The (main) lesson learned from our integration adventure is that operational effectiveness is only related to leadership and the actions of the leader. We had this twisted around, and this was another message we had for the ADF: Operational effectiveness has nothing to do with the gender of the folks composing your force.”
Image by Gary Ramage, courtesy of news.com.au