New Research, Case Studies Show Gender Impacts Hard Security Policy

   •    June 12, 2012

Two female military troops speak with a man in Afghanistan

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Jessica Domingo, right, and Cpl. Daisy Romero, assigned to a female engagement team (FET), speak with a man during a patrol in Marjah, Helmand province, Afghanistan. (U.S. Marine Corps / Cpl. Marionne T. Mangrum)


New research we published in April shows empirical evidence that security forces are more likely to accomplish their mission when they take into account the differing needs and perspectives of men and women.

Why Did We Do This Research?

Based on a growing collection of evidence and policy, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Committee on Gender Perspectives in Brussels sought assistance from us at The Institute for Inclusive Security to identify how incorporating gender perspectives positively influences operational effectiveness.

The newly released report, “Attention to gender increases security in operations: Examples from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO),” reveals factors that increase security and cites specific examples and case studies (Chad and Afghanistan) of how women’s inclusion can be critical to decreasing security risks for troops.

Prioritizing dialogue with ‘the other half’ of the population can enhance situational awareness, increase force acceptance, influence the conflict’s narrative, and, ultimately, save lives.

Case Study: An Insurgent Attack or a Wedding?

When an all-male Swedish rifle patrol within the Provincial Reconstruction team (PRT) in Afghanistan engaged with local women in dialogue, for example, they learned of a major upcoming event in the town that would draw hundreds of people from neighboring villages—an event no man had thought important to mention, because it was a wedding.

The women’s information allowed the PRT time to create a plan for monitoring the flow of people and helped redirect mission assets and personnel. It kept military personnel from being surprised and overwhelmed by hundreds of people suddenly arriving in the area.

Without a benign explanation, personnel could interpret the movement as an insurgent tactic or other form of aggression, which could lead to immediate violence as well as longer-term risks to the force from a resentful community.

Inclusive Security’s report is just one addition to the growing global debate on the role of gender in security policy and planning. As nations and international organizations around the world, the US [PDF] and NATO among them, work to develop and implement action plans on women, peace, and security, it’s time we acknowledged that gender does in fact impact hard security policy.

To read the full report and learn about why women’s inclusion is critical to security, please visit:

Attention to gender increases security in operations: Examples from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

Dr. Tobie Whitman is senior adviser for policy and research at The Institute for Inclusive Security. She previously worked for USAID’s Office of Military Affairs and Women for Women International.

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