Defense does not set itself a fixed quota, but it is a “target number” of 30 percent of women in the armed forces. “Defence needs more people: the pool of potential candidates must be wider,” said Foreign Minister Christoph van der Maat (Defence). According to the highest military officer, Armed Forces Commander Ono Echelsheim, “Diversity-formed teams perform better.”
The desire to get more women into the military has been in the air for some time. Former Defense Minister Henk Kamp said in an interview with De Telegraaf last year that it was “not appropriate in today’s society to have such a low percentage of women”. Only 11 percent of military personnel are women, 26 percent of civilian personnel: on average 16 percent of defense personnel are women.
Foreign Minister van der Maat acknowledges that recruiting more women will be a major challenge. Although the goal should be achieved by 2030, it already seems certain that this will not be possible for some combat units. In the Marine Corps, in the ground forces and in technical positions, “work with target numbers comes too early and is no longer feasible,” Van der Matt reports to the House of Representatives.
It is now in the process of introducing a Preference Policy. This means that women are given equal preference for suitability, whether in job applications or promotions. In addition, women are evaluated faster when they apply for a position in the armed forces. This also applies to senior positions, for example in the Ministry of Defense in The Hague.
The fact that women now have an advantage in promotions is very sensitive within the military. “A person who has been ready for a promotion for four years may allow you to be outdone by a woman who has just arrived,” says Baudouin Potts, deputy commander of the armed forces, at the Norwegian Refugee Council. “But it has to happen to increase the number of women at the top.”
Van der Matt also expects this to lead to resistance. “We are aware that these measures elicit different sentiments within the organization, with concern that amending the requirements will lead to them lowering,” he said. But according to him, the requirements remain the same. “We don’t compromise on quality, but we will expand, expedite and differentiate where necessary.”
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