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Women in Leadership

Why Gender Equality Is the Key to Peace and Security Globally

Across the globe, women are excluded from national and international security institutions which is not just wrong, it is stupid.

Across the globe, the underrepresentation of women in national and international security institutions is a glaring problem. Gender perspectives are insufficiently integrated into analyses of national and international security challenges, including in analyses dealing with public health crises. Gender perspectives are usually afterthoughts, if they are thought about at all. Violence against women and girls has continued at horrifying levels and intensified during the COVID-19 crisis.

Progress towards gender equality has varied greatly from country to country, but nowhere has achieved true gender equality. When you examine the obstacles to progress, what is striking is not the differences, but the similarities across countries. Most national and international security establishments are comprised mainly of men and run by men. They have been reluctant to bring women into professional or policymaking positions, especially if this would displace men. These policy establishments also look at national and international security issues in very traditional ways and continue to treat gender issues as marginal issues.

Policymakers need to understand that the perpetuation of gender inequalities is not just wrong; it is stupid. Research has shown that higher levels of gender inequality are correlated with a greater propensity for conflict and instability. We also know that peace processes that include women are more likely to last and are 64 percent less likely to fail. The current, inequitable state of affairs has serious, negative consequences for national and international security. Promoting gender parity in security policy affairs is the right thing to do and the smart thing to do.

The international community recognized as much when, in 2000, it adopted UN Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS). This resolution called on all UN members states, including the United States, to increase the representation and participation of women in conflict prevention and conflict resolution processes, including their participation in security institutions; integrate gender perspectives in the analysis of international security issues; and adopt special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence. Nine subsequent UN Security Council resolutions have reinforced and refined the WPS agenda.

As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the WPS resolution, and as many societies and nations face unprecedented challenges with the COVID-19 crisis, it is time to start being serious about gender equality.

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