Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

Career Choices and Gender: Female Cadets at the Hellenic Military Academy

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

Career Choices and Gender: Female Cadets at the Hellenic Military Academy

Article excerpt


The following essay discusses the findings of a small, unofficial survey concerning career choices and gender. Conducted at the Hellenic Military Academy in 2010, it explores the main reasons that account for the increasing popularity of the Academies of the Armed Forces among high-school graduates in Greece, and focuses on the particular decisions that female cadets make within the Academy, as well as on the treatment the latter receive from colleagues and instructors alike. Since military institutions are commonly ignored in debates about tertiary education, student recruitment, and gender theorization, the aim of this study was to expand existing research, and illuminate the links between "mainstream" education and a discipline that is often approached with suspicion or awkwardness. Examining parameters like academic performance, adaptability to the requirements of tertiary education, personal motivation, economic circumstances, and the dynamics of gender, the essay ultimately suggests that the Hellenic Armed Forces recruit particularly gifted and motivated women, and that the success of the latter within military institutions is tied up with the resistance to gender stereotypes and biased educational practices that have developed in the military.

Keywords: tertiary education, gender, military institutions, career choices, Greece

(ProQuest: ... denotes non-USASCII text omitted.)

1. Literature Review and Aim of Present Study

For many different reasons, the relationship between gender and the military has always been controversial; a comprehensive review of the above field would reveal several thought-provoking, yet contradictory parameters that often prevent researchers from drawing solid conclusions. The situation becomes even more complicated when the researcher is interested in the Armed Forces of a small country like Greece, whose documented reality with respect to gender issues in the military is practically non-existent. And yet, we all need to start from somewhere and, in this study, the initial incentive was the increasing popularity of the Hellenic Armed Forces among gifted high school graduates - especially women. The relevant reactions in the daily press suggest that this popularity may represent a new trend in the Hellenic tertiary education system, which deserves further analysis.1

In the following pages, therefore, I will examine the reasons that account for this trend, with particular reference to the Hellenic Military Academy and its female cadets. More specifically, I will focus on a) whether young men and women choose the army for the same reasons, b) whether they have similar expectations and, c) whether they receive the same treatment. I will also attempt to interpret both the males' and the females' views concerning gender and military leadership, as well as provide recommendations for future research that cannot be accommodated here.

Earlier research on gender and the military tended to focus on matters peripheral to women's active service in the Armed Forces: for instance, in her monumental Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics, Cynthia Enloe (1989) explored the relationship between nationalism and masculinity, as well as army-related prostitution and the lives of women in military bases, but did not really examine the conditions of active service for female officers - presumably due to the still limited presence of such officers internationally. However, in Maneuvers: The International Politics of Militarizing Women 's Lives, Enloe (2000) did include a comparative analysis of the conditions that encourage women to pursue a military career in several different countries, concluding that such a career is often perceived as a fast track to social integration, and relates to aspects such as 'camaraderie, physical fitness, skill training, college scholarships, the chance for leadership, equal pay, child care [...] [and] pensions' (285). …

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