Can women lead an army?
Germany’s defence minister Christine Lambrecht has finally resigned ending a controversial 13-month.
Lambrecht’s resignation comes as Germany continues to be under European pressure to provide Ukraine with its advanced leopard two tanks, but Chancellor Olaf Schulz has refused to deliver “alone”.
Despite Schulz having said he has a successor in mind, the chancellor has other criteria to meet: He had earlier committed to having an equal number of male and female ministers in the cabinet.
By that logic, Lambrecht would have to be replaced by a woman only. The hunt is still on; A vacancy in the defence Ministry for days is the last thing Schulz would want now, particularly with a slew of meetings lined up with western allies on the issue of Ukraine.
So what led to Lambrecht’s political failure?
Analysts say this has been due to her lack of knowledge about the military and her style of leadership.
The most immediate reason, however, is from New Year’s day when she posted a rather awkward video surrounded by fireworks. She seemingly mixed up the Ukraine war with pleasant personal encounters.
Lambrecht recorded this video informally on a mobile phone on the streets of Berlin, she was criticized for her “tone-deaf message”.
Since she was picked as a defence minister in December 2021, many were sceptical about Lambert’s competency. Reportedly, in one of her first public interactions, she admitted to even botching up the sequence of military ranks.
Germany decided to not participate actively in the Russian-Ukrain war, then in an almost token gesture, Berlin offered to supply around 5000 helmets to Ukraine forces.
Lambrecht and Schulz both were slammed for this by Kyiv, at a time when their European counterparts did much more.
Further, in May 2022 she came under fire for allowing her son to accompany her on a government helicopter on their way to a family vacation.
Moreover, she failed to implement an increase in military spending as pledged by Chancellor Schulz, despite the creation of a 100 billion Euro investment fund for the German Armed Forces.
And a lack of progress was evident; During a military exercise last month to prepare for inclusion in NATO’s “High Readiness response force”, all 18 of the modern German tanks broke down.
The tanks, a key weapon for the German Army, suffered a lot of malfunctions, from electronic failures to direct defects.
Lambrecht did hold an emergency meeting on the situation but was called out soon enough for not being in sync with the forces’ requirements.
This failure has raised the question: Can women lead an army?
This question is highly relevant now that war drums resonate louder.
Women have served in the military in many different roles in various jurisdictions throughout history.
Women in many countries are no longer excluded from some types of combat missions such as piloting, mechanics, and infantry officer. Since 1914, in western militaries, women have served in greater numbers and more diverse roles than before.
In the 1970s, most Western armies began allowing women to serve in active duty in all military branches. In 2006, eight countries (China, Eritrea, Israel, Libya, Malaysia, North Korea, Peru, and Taiwan) conscripted women into military service.
In 2013, Norway became the first NATO country to draft women, as well as the first country in the world to conscript women on the same formal terms as men. In 2017, neighbouring Sweden followed suit and in 2018, the Netherlands joined this line-up (although in the Netherlands there is no active peacetime conscription).
As of 2022, only three countries conscripted women and men on the same formal conditions: Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands. A few other countries have laws allowing for the conscription of women into their armed forces, however with some differences such as service exemptions, length of service, and more.
A 2015 Marine Corps study found that women in a unit created to assess female combat performance were significantly injured twice as often as men, less accurate with infantry weapons and not as good at removing wounded troops from the battlefield.
The study assessed a nine-month experiment at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and Twentynine Palms, California. About 400 Marines, including 100 women, volunteered to participate.
Male squads, teams, and crews demonstrated better performance on 93 of 134 tasks evaluated (69%) than units with women in them. Male units were faster while completing tactical movements in combat situations, especially in units with large “crew-served” weapons such as heavy machine guns and mortars.
Male infantry squads had better accuracy than squads with women in them, with “a notable difference between genders for every individual weapons system” used by infantry rifleman units. The M4 carbine, M27 infantry automatic rifle and M203 single-shot grenade launcher were assessed.
Male Marines who had not received infantry training were more accurate than women who had. In removing wounded troops from the battlefield, “notable differences in execution times were found between all-male and gender-integrated groups”.
Unit cohesion was lower in mixed-gender units. Many female soldiers reported that the way that they are viewed by male soldiers is often detrimental to their participation. For instance, female soldiers are often labelled as “either standoffish or a slut”.
To avoid such labels, female soldiers have to spend time with fellow soldiers strategically, without spending too much time with any one of them. This approach often has an isolating effect.
In several instances, women were considered less skilled than male soldiers, so were not given opportunities to complete tasks for which they were qualified.
According to Lieutenant colonel Dave Grossman, author of On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, Israeli soldiers reacted with uncontrollable protectiveness and aggression after seeing a woman wounded. Further, Islamic militants rarely, if ever, surrender to female soldiers, lessening the IDF’s ability to take prisoners.
Iraqi and Afghan civilians are often not intimidated by female soldiers. However, in socially conservative environments, female combat soldiers can search female civilians, while children and women are more likely to talk to female soldiers than to male soldiers.
There have been several women who have served as defence ministers in various countries throughout the world. Some examples include:
- In the United Kingdom, Anne-Marie Trevelyan was appointed as the Defence Secretary in 2019, becoming the first woman to hold that position.
- In India, Nirmala Sitharaman was the first full-time woman Defence Minister of India, she served the role from 2017 to 2021.
- In Chile, Michelle Bachelet, from 2002 to 2004, became the first woman to hold this post in a Latin American country and one of the few in the world.
These are just a few examples, many other women have served as defence ministers in other countries around the world.
|Name||Image||Country||Mandate start||Mandate end||Term length|
|Sirimavo Bandaranaike||Ceylon/ Sri Lanka||21 July 1960||25 March 1965||4 years, 247 days|
|29 May 1970||23 July 1977||7 years, 55 days|
|Indira Gandhi||India||30 November 1975||20 December 1975||20 days|
|14 January 1980||15 January 1982||2 years, 1 day|
|Dame Eugenia Charles||Dominica||1985||1990||5 years, 0 days|
|Benazir Bhutto||Pakistan||4 December 1988||6 August 1990||1 year, 245 days|
|Violeta Chamorro||Nicaragua||25 April 1990||10 January 1997||6 years, 260 days|
|Elisabeth Rehn||Finland||13 June 1990||1 January 1995||4 years, 202 days|
|Khaleda Zia||Bangladesh||27 February 1991||30 March 1996||5 years, 32 days|
|1 October 2001||29 October 2006||5 years, 28 days|
|Kim Campbell||Canada||4 January 1993||25 June 1993||172 days|
|Chandrika Kumaratunga||Sri Lanka||14 November 1994||12 December 2001||7 years, 28 days|
|Anneli Taina||Finland||13 April 1995||15 April 1999||4 years, 2 days|
|Sheikh Hasina||Bangladesh||12 June 1996||15 July 2001||5 years, 33 days|
|6 January 2009||Incumbent||14 years, 12 days|
|Laura Chinchilla Miranda||Costa Rica[nb 1]||12 November 1996||8 May 1998||1 year, 175 days|
|30 March 2008||14 April 2008||15 days|
|Regina Ip||Hong Kong||31 August 1998||25 July 2003||4 years, 328 days|
|Eldbjørg Løwer||Norway||15 March 1999||10 March 2000||361 days|
|Joice Mujuru||Zimbabwe||8 June 2001||8 August 2001||61 days|
|Kristin Krohn Devold||Norway||19 October 2001||17 October 2005||3 years, 363 days|
|Michelle Bachelet||Chile||7 January 2002||1 October 2004||2 years, 268 days|
|Cynthia Pratt||Bahamas||7 May 2002||4 May 2007||4 years, 362 days|
|Michèle Alliot-Marie||France||7 May 2002||18 May 2007||5 years, 11 days|
|Željka Antunović||Croatia||30 July 2002||23 December 2003||1 year, 146 days|
|Marta Lucía Ramírez||Colombia||7 August 2002||9 November 2003||1 year, 94 days|
|Lena Hjelm-Wallén||Sweden||30 September 2002||22 October 2002||22 days|
|Mame Madior Boye||Senegal||2 October 2002||4 November 2002||33 days|
|Leni Björklund||Sweden||4 November 2002||6 October 2006||3 years, 336 days|
|Sylvia Flores||Belize||5 March 2003||5 January 2004||306 days|
|Filomena Mascarenhas Tipote||Guinea-Bissau||23 April 2003||12 May 2004||1 year, 19 days|
|Gloria Macapagal Arroyo||Philippines||1 September 2003||2 October 2003||31 days|
|30 November 2006||1 February 2007||63 days|
|Azucena Berrutti||Uruguay||1 March 2005||3 March 2008||3 years, 2 days|
|Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen||Norway||17 October 2005||20 October 2009||4 years, 3 days|
|21 September 2012||16 October 2013||1 year, 25 days|
|Nilda Garré||Argentina||28 November 2005||15 December 2010||5 years, 17 days|
|Solvita Āboltiņa||Latvia||23 December 2005||5 January 2006||13 days|
|Linda Abu Meri||Latvia||5 January 2006||7 April 2006||92 days|
|Cristina Fontes Lima||Cape Verde||8 March 2006||21 March 2011||5 years, 13 days|
|Vivianne Blanlot||Chile||11 March 2006||27 March 2007||1 year, 16 days|
|Portia Simpson-Miller||Jamaica||30 March 2006||11 September 2007||1 year, 165 days|
|5 January 2012||3 March 2016||4 years, 58 days|
|Valgerður Sverrisdóttir||Iceland[nb 2]||15 June 2006||24 May 2007||343 days|
|Vlasta Parkanová||Czech Republic||9 January 2007||8 May 2009||2 years, 119 days|
|Guadalupe Larriva||Ecuador||15 January 2007||24 January 2007||9 days|
|Lorena Escudero||Ecuador||2 February 2007||30 August 2007||209 days|
|Ruth Tapia Roa||Nicaragua||16 May 2007||14 May 2012||4 years, 364 days|
|Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir||Iceland[nb 2]||24 May 2007||1 February 2009||1 year, 253 days|
|Yuriko Koike||Japan||4 July 2007||27 August 2007||54 days|
|Cécile Manorohanta||Madagascar||27 October 2007||9 February 2009||1 year, 105 days|
|Carme Chacón||Spain||14 April 2008||22 December 2011||3 years, 252 days|
|Janina del Vecchio Ugalde||Costa Rica[nb 1]||14 April 2008||8 May 2010||1 year, 177 days|
|Elsa Teixeira Pinto||São Tomé and Príncipe||22 June 2008||14 August 2010||2 years, 53 days|
|Ljubica Jelušič||Slovenia||21 November 2008||10 February 2012||3 years, 81 days|
|Rasa Juknevičienė||Lithuania||9 December 2008||13 December 2012||3 years, 4 days|
|Lindiwe Sisulu||South Africa||10 May 2009||12 June 2012||3 years, 33 days|
|Bidhya Devi Bhandari||Nepal||25 May 2009||6 February 2011||1 year, 257 days|
|Angélique Ngoma||Gabon||17 October 2009||14 January 2011||1 year, 89 days|
|Grete Faremo||Norway||20 October 2009||11 November 2011||2 years, 22 days|
|Gitte Lillelund Bech||Denmark||23 February 2010||3 October 2011||1 year, 222 days|
|Lesego Motsumi||Botswana||30 August 2010||7 February 2011||161 days|
|María Cecilia Chacón||Bolivia||6 April 2011||26 September 2011||173 days|
|Iveta Radičová||Slovakia||28 November 2011||4 April 2012||128 days|
|Milica Pejanović-Đurišić||Montenegro||13 March 2012||28 November 2016||4 years, 260 days|
|Catharina Elmsäter-Svärd||Sweden||29 March 2012||18 April 2012||20 days|
|Karin Enström||Sweden||18 April 2012||3 October 2014||2 years, 168 days|
|Maritza Pastora Membreño Morales||Nicaragua||14 May 2012||4 March 2013||294 days|
|Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula||South Africa||12 June 2012||5 August 2021||9 years, 54 days|
|María Liz García de Arnold||Paraguay||25 June 2012||15 August 2013||1 year, 51 days|
|Olusola Obada||Nigeria||22 June 2012||11 September 2013||1 year, 81 days|
|Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert||Netherlands||5 November 2012||3 October 2017||4 years, 332 days|
|María Fernanda Espinosa||Ecuador||28 November 2012||23 September 2014||1 year, 299 days|
|Karolína Peake||Czech Republic||12 December 2012||20 December 2012||8 days|
|Martha Elena Ruiz Sevilla||Nicaragua||4 March 2013||19 August 2019||6 years, 168 days|
|Raychelle Omamo||Kenya||15 May 2013||14 January 2020||6 years, 244 days|
|Yingluck Shinawatra||Thailand||30 June 2013||7 May 2014||311 days|
|Carmen Meléndez||Venezuela||5 July 2013||25 October 2014||1 year, 112 days|
|Mimi Kodheli||Albania||15 September 2013||11 September 2017||3 years, 361 days|
|Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide||Norway||16 October 2013||20 October 2017||4 years, 4 days|
|Ursula von der Leyen||Germany||17 December 2013||17 July 2019||5 years, 212 days|
|Roberta Pinotti||Italy||22 February 2014||1 June 2018||4 years, 99 days|
|Cadi Mané||Guinea-Bissau||4 July 2014||13 October 2015||1 year, 101 days|
|Marie-Noëlle Koyara||Central African Republic||17 January 2015||29 October 2015||286 days|
|12 September 2017||10 June 2021||3 years, 271 days|
|Marina Pendeš||Bosnia and Herzegovina||31 March 2015||23 December 2019||4 years, 315 days|
|Tina Khidasheli||Georgia||1 May 2015||30 July 2016||1 year, 90 days|
|Andreja Katič||Slovenia||13 May 2015||13 September 2018||3 years, 123 days|
|Marise Payne||Australia||21 September 2015||26 August 2018||2 years, 339 days|
|Adiato Djaló Nandigna||Guinea-Bissau||13 October 2015||2 June 2016||233 days|
|Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir||Iceland[nb 2]||7 April 2016||11 January 2017||279 days|
|Tomomi Inada||Japan||3 August 2016||28 July 2017||359 days|
|María Dolores de Cospedal||Spain||4 November 2016||1 June 2018||1 year, 209 days|
|Sylvie Goulard||France||17 May 2017||19 June 2017||33 days|
|Radmila Šekerinska||North Macedonia||1 June 2017||16 January 2022||4 years, 229 days|
|Florence Parly||France||21 June 2017||20 May 2022||4 years, 333 days|
|Nirmala Sitharaman||India||3 September 2017||31 May 2019||1 year, 270 days|
|Olta Xhaçka||Albania||11 September 2017||31 December 2020||3 years, 111 days|
|Ank Bijleveld||Netherlands||26 October 2017||17 September 2021||3 years, 326 days|
|Karla Šlechtová||Czech Republic||13 December 2017||28 June 2018||197 days|
|Elisabetta Trenta||Italy||1 June 2018||5 September 2019||1 year, 96 days|
|Margarita Robles||Spain||7 June 2018||Incumbent||4 years, 225 days|
|Oppah Muchinguri||Zimbabwe||11 September 2018||Incumbent||4 years, 129 days|
|Aisha Mohammed Mussa||Ethiopia||16 October 2018||18 April 2019||184 days|
|Mariya Ahmed Didi||Maldives||17 November 2018||Incumbent||4 years, 62 days|
|Viola Amherd||Switzerland||1 January 2019||Incumbent||4 years, 17 days|
|Rose Christiane Raponda||Gabon||12 February 2019||16 July 2020||1 year, 155 days|
|Lanelle Tanangada||Solomon Islands||25 April 2019||10 October 2019||159 days|
|Penny Mordaunt||United Kingdom||1 May 2019||24 July 2019||84 days|
|Linda Reynolds||Australia||29 May 2019||25 March 2021||1 year, 300 days|
|Trine Bramsen||Denmark||27 June 2019||4 February 2022||2 years, 222 days|
|Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer||Germany||17 July 2019||8 December 2021||2 years, 144 days|
|Rosa Adelina Barahona Castro||Nicaragua||21 August 2019||Incumbent||3 years, 150 days|
|Klaudia Tanner||Austria||7 January 2020||Incumbent||3 years, 11 days|
|Monica Juma||Kenya||14 January 2020||30 September 2021||1 year, 259 days|
|Zeina Akar||Lebanon||22 January 2020||10 September 2021||1 year, 231 days|
|Angelina Teny||South Sudan||12 March 2020||Incumbent||2 years, 312 days|
|Krishna Mathoera||Suriname||16 July 2020||Incumbent||2 years, 186 days|
|Ludivine Dedonder||Belgium||1 October 2020||Incumbent||2 years, 109 days|
|Essozimna Marguerite Gnakade||Togo||1 October 2020||Incumbent||2 years, 109 days|
|Nuria Esparch||Peru||18 November 2020||29 July 2021||253 days|
|Olivera Injac||Montenegro||4 December 2020||28 April 2022||1 year, 145 days|
|Thandi Modise||South Africa||6 August 2021||Incumbent||1 year, 165 days|
|Stergomena Tax||Tanzania||13 September 2021||3 October 2022||1 year, 20 days|
|Anita Anand||Canada||26 October 2021||Incumbent||1 year, 84 days|
|Þórdís Kolbrún R. Gylfadóttir||Iceland[nb 2]||28 November 2021||Incumbent||1 year, 51 days|
|Christine Lambrecht||Germany||8 December 2021||19 January 2023||1 year, 42 days|
|Jana Černochová||Czech Republic||17 December 2021||Incumbent||1 year, 32 days|
|Kajsa Ollongren||Netherlands||10 January 2022||Incumbent||1 year, 8 days|
|Slavjanka Petrovska||North Macedonia||17 January 2022||Incumbent||1 year, 1 day|
|Maya Fernández||Chile||11 March 2022||Incumbent||313 days|
|Helena Carreiras||Portugal||30 March 2022||Incumbent||294 days|
References / Credits:
Fist Post, DW, Wikipedia.