The Guardian: Europe's defence minister roles become female stronghold20 May 2017 | 03:49 | FOCUS News Agency
But the meeting – to discuss ways of boosting EU-Nato cooperation and the use of joint EU battle groups – was remarkable for more than that. All five of the bloc’s largest economies, apart from Britain, were represented by women.
Besides Goulard, Germany’s Ursula von der Leyen, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert of the Netherlands, Italy’s Roberta Pinotti and María Dolores de Cospedal of Spain topped a table chaired by the EU foreign affairs and security chief, Federica Mogherini.
“I’d like to think the glass ceiling has been broken,” said Alexandra Ashbourne-Walmsley, an associate fellow of the Royal United Services Institute. “It shouldn’t be a thing any more. But actually it will be until the US has a female defence secretary.”
Indira Gandhi became the first high-profile female defence minister in 1975. The first in Europe was Finland’s Elisabeth Rehn in 1990. Since then 18 EU countries have followed suit, including Sweden three times and Norway five.
Few have direct military experience: of the current crop, Von der Leyen is a medical doctor by training, Goulard and Hennis-Plasschaert have spent years in Brussels, Cospedal is a career diplomat and Pinotti has a literature and politics degree.
But in a field traditionally dominated by men, the growing prevalence of women could reflect both their capacity for “multitasking and thinking on their feet” and the changing nature of the portfolio, Ashbourne-Walmsley said.
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