Women Soldiers and Human Resources Policy

By Krizbai, Janos | Minerva: Quarterly Report on Women and the Military, Fall-Winter 1999 | Go to article overview

Women Soldiers and Human Resources Policy


Krizbai, Janos, Minerva: Quarterly Report on Women and the Military


Today, when the army is making fundamental changes in its human resources policy, it is important to consider the question of female personnel more thoroughly. The situation of women soldiers requires detailed investigation since it is controlled by the laws that cover employment in other public institutions and also affected by decades of tradition. Furthermore, the educational background of women soldiers has been changing, and the number of those who hold responsible positions or who have higher education is increasing. This basically corresponds with the change of the employment structure, because the army hands over so-called service functions to outside providers on an ever-increasing scale.

Thus, in my presentation I would like to underline some problematic areas in the situation of servicewomen. When we approach the question from the point of human resources policy, I have to start with the fact that the interest of women in military careers, previously a masculine preserve, has been increasing an unprecedented pace. Women had served in the Hungarian Armed Forces, but they were a smaller proportion of the total force and served in positions that were more typically women's work, primarily specialized service positions (health, administration, information) in support institutions. Furthermore, those women were usually relatives, including wives and children, of soldiers. Major changes took place, however, in the 1990s, when women from civilian jobs or from schools appeared and became interested in combat positions.

Before we go into the details, it may be useful to pause for some international comparisons. It is easy to assume that the presence of women in uniform is taken for granted in NATO states. This, however, is not true; there are developed NATO states such as Germany in which woman can serve only in insignificant numbers and in special support institutions. Other countries, such as Belgium, limit the number of women in the military in accordance with the national gender composition. In spite of the "equality" said to obtain in the developed countries, traditions exert a strong effect on employment policies, particularly in the armed forces.

We found ourselves in a new situation in the 1990s, when more and more women with high levels of professional knowledge and excellent personal qualities applied for military jobs. Some internal prejudice emerged, the absence of certain conditions was emphasized, and society's opinion on a possible war situation was also formulated. These are all those questions answered earlier to a certain extent, but we need more discussion to find the best possible answers.

According to the statistics from December 1998, 524 officers, 2044 noncommissioned officers and 364 staff aides were registered in the armed forces. These numbers mean that 5 percent of the officers, 23 percent of the noncommissioned officers and 7.5 percent of the staff are women. The troop positions are mainly direct combat support or combat positions; the women serving there are in very physically demanding positions. If we look at the age parameters obviously the youngest are the ones who serve as troops. The average age is 28 years. For noncommissioned officers it is 36.8 and for officers 38.6 years.

The statistics show a growing trend for women officers and, particularly, NCOs to serve in combat or direct combat support positions that held been for men only. The majority of women do still serve, however, in support functions more removed from combat.

I should mention that 55 percent of these women had worked as military civil servants, 35 to 40 percent came from a civilian workplace and 10 to 15 percent of them were employed directly after finishing school (military or civilian). These figures indicate the increase in women, especially women who had never been in contact with the military.

Today women work in relatively large numbers in positions which had been predominantly male; they are the majority in certain nonadministrative positions. …

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