Attitudes and experiences related to the involvement of women in Estonian Defence Forces

Andres Siplane

Most Western countries have developed special policies about the service of women in defence forces and declared the desire to increase the number of women in the military. Estonia is no exception. The involvement of women is not an aim in itself but it is seen as a solution to several problems, starting from the achievement of better cooperation with the local population during missions and a better representation of the society in the armed forces to the need to improve the effectiveness of the leadership of military organizations. However, the involvement of women also poses a challenge to the infrastructure, equipment and attitudes that express the traditionally masculine character of armed forces.

The Estonian Defence Forces also face the above problems, challenges and opportunities. To map the situation, a survey was conducted among active military personnel in 2017. As expected, the survey showed that Estonian Defence Forces were noticeably more progressive about the involvement of women than the rest of the society and that the traditional fears about women coping as soldiers are unfounded. It was also interesting to observe that women considered military careers as important as men. The increase in the proportion of women soldiers appears to be an irreversible trend as, on the example of Estonia, it can be said that the younger generations accept women serving in the military more than the older generations and at the same time the Defence Forces prepares for the recruitment of increasing numbers of women. Thus, we can expect the continued increase in the numbers of women soldiers and we need to prepare ourselves for the detection and analysis of processes taking place.