International Women’s Day, celebrated around the world every year on March 8, is as good a time as any to recognize the trailblazers who have worked to ensure that our institutions, especially those that protect our peace and security, are fully representative of the talent and diversity in our communities. It is also an important time to reflect on just how far we still have to go toward establishing a truly inclusive foreign policy and defense strategy.
The organization Girl Security believes that empowering young women in national security will be one of the most transformative advancements of the 21st century. We strongly agree that the more the national security field looks like America — the better our policy and security outcomes will be. WorldDenver is proud to partner with Beyond Our Borders and 33 other Colorado organizations to advocate for full implementation of The Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017 (WPS).
The 115th Congress declared in its findings for the WPS Act that women in conflict-affected regions have achieved significant success in moderating violent extremism, countering terrorism, resolving disputes, and furthermore, “Research suggests that peace negotiations are more likely to succeed and to result in durable peace agreements when women participate in the peace process.”
Enacted with strong bipartisan support, WPS made it the policy of the United States to promote the meaningful participation of women in all aspects of overseas conflict prevention, management, and resolution, and post-conflict relief and recovery efforts, reinforced through diplomatic efforts and programs.
Studies show that women tend to bring an empathetic vision and greater focus to issues affecting families, health, youth, and education. A 2019 Harvard Business Review report further states that women score high on initiative, resilience, driving for results, integrity, relationship building and bold leadership. Improved outcomes result when women are in leadership roles and teams alongside male colleagues.
It was largely women behind the analysis leading to the capture of Osama Bin Laden. Post-event analyses revealed that women who were part of “Alec Station” — the unit tasked with finding Bin Laden — possessed both a long-term view of security risks and exemplary attention to detail.
We’ve had the good fortune to work with impressive women role models who demonstrated how to work through bias, support each other, and to develop networks. As a result, there are more women at the table today serving in leadership positions. Organizations such as Girl Security and the Leadership Council for Women in National Security (LCWINS) are building on these networks and strengths to impact outcomes across the entire national security field.
But it took legislation to ensure today’s diplomats and defense leaders know that their mentoring, support, and promotion of underrepresented officers will strengthen their own case for promotion. LCWINS Co-Founder Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley often says, “If we want the workforce to care, make it clear it counts.” WPS mandates the meaningful inclusion of women in all aspects of peacemaking and bringing gender considerations to major foreign policy and security initiatives.
WPS will require a national strategy as well as stand-alone implementation plans, including financial contributions, for each participating entity — the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State, and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
WPS also provides an opportunity to showcase all of the different career paths young women can pursue to work in national security: defense, diplomacy, cybersecurity, supply chain management, engineering, finance, and public health to name a few.
By requiring that we embrace and listen to the full spectrum of American people, their values, and their strengths, our nation will be wiser in our long-term approach and management of global challenges.
Jamie Landers is director of advanced programs at Lockheed Martin. Ambassador Catherine Ebert-Gray is director of Global Education at CU Denver, Anschutz. They are co-chairs of WorldDenver’s International Women’s Day, taking place March 8, with presenting sponsor Lockheed Martin. Register for the free live-streamed event here: https://worlddenver.org/our-events/iwd.html