Laura Yeager and women in the army

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The American has achieved what few women in the world have done: stand out in an army where the majority are men and gender is an impediment

On June 29, the American Laura Yeager will become the first woman in command of an infantry division. This represents a milestone for women in the armed forces, because not only in the United States, but around the world in general, this work is mostly led by men.

Leer en español: Laura Yeager y las mujeres en el ejército

After more than 30 years serving for the United States Armed Forces, she has been part of historical moments such as the war against Iraq, she has piloted airplanes in combat and medical evacuation, and she has won decorations like a Bronze Star and a Legion of Merit. However, this is perhaps the greatest recognition Yeager can have in her devotion to military life. According to El Espectador, "despite being part of the reserve, the 40th Infantry Division of the National Guard , she has taken an active part in numerous wars since the First World War, so it is not ruled out that Yeager will lead the way his troops in the front line of combat".

This important event for Yeager, and for women in general, makes us question ourselves: how is the panorama of women in the armies?

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Although recently it is more common to start seeing women as part of the different Armed Forces of the countries, this is undoubtedly a new job for them, since in many countries women have been admitted in it for only over than 30 years. In the past, women could be part of the army, but in jobs more related to health or care for wounded during wars. That, however, is beginning to change.

Given the recent mobilization of women in the various fields of the Armed Forces, it is logical that until now few reach high positions such as Laura Yeager, because that requires a broad knowledge and tour of different positions and sectors.

In a few years, probably, more women will be seen in high positions around the world. Meanwhile, they represent just over 10% of the various armies, according to the Observatorio Militar Para la Igualdad of Spain.

The United States, in fact, was one of the countries that started having women in its ranks first. This, since for 70's they were already seen in some positions non-operative or related to health and nursing. On the other hand, European countries, except for some like Germany, began to accept them at the end of the 80s.

For 2017, according to NATO, the average was 10.8% in field positions (counting officers and non-commissioned officers). To this extent, France is the country with the most women, whose figure reaches 19%, while there are countries like Italy where women only occupy 3%.

Women in the armies of Latin America

In Latin America, the first conception of women in the army took place in 1974 in Chile, with the emergence of the Army Women's Auxiliary Service School and the Women's Military Service. All these were groups of women in service, mainly operative, but not in the field or combat and, much less, in high command. From there, the Latin American countries have been accepting more women in different lines of the Military Forces.

According to the Security and Defense Network of Latin America (Resdal), it was not until the early 2000s that the presence of women began to skyrocket. This was also related to the promotion of women to high public positions, especially in defense ministries. With Michelle Bachelet first, in 2002, as Minister of Defense, this sector that was previously reserved for men began to change.

According to the report on women in the sectors of Security and Defense of Latin America of Resdal, which is published every two years, peace operations such as United Nations Missions are the causes in which women participate the most. In this case, "Uruguay is the country with the largest female presence that sends peacekeeping operations to the rest of the region, followed by Argentina, and then Bolivia." In this type of case, Uruguay has missions such as the Stabilization of Haiti of the UN, where women occupy 46.34%, while Brazil only 3.66%.

Some countries in the region, such as Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay have promoted policies to facilitate recruiting, promoting and avoiding discrimination against women who are part of the security and defense of their country. Among them, there is precisely the incentive for more women to participate in peace missions and it is hoped that in the next decade the first commander will be named in a UN peace mission.

Although this may sound optimistic, the fact is that Latin America is far from being one of the most advanced regions in terms of gender. In fact, "women represent less than 7% of all armed forces in Latin America," according to the Foreign Affairs Latin America review. Resdal's figures show an advance in terms of women who have come to work in field positions, such as peace missions. However, there is not yet a greater number of women who excel in high command, and no country in the region still has women in combat. According to the same review, only 14 countries in the world already allow women to go to combat zones and none of them is from Latin America.

Although the number of women in the military increases, in theory, over the years, according to Resdal, "the possibility of incorporation is not complete, with some areas and tasks being restricted". This happens without counting that very few countries already have an organized strategy to encourage women to enlist in their armies. Likewise, every country, with France as one of the main examples, must implement plans that promote equality of rights when it comes to promotions in the positions.


LatinAmerican Post | Juliana Suárez

Translated from "Laura Yeager y las mujeres en el ejército"

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