The Government is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for men and women throughout the Defence Forces and to the full participation by women in all aspects of Defence Forces activities. This is underlined by a commitment in the Programme for Government to increase the level of female participation in the Defence Forces.
Unlike some other national armed forces, the Defence Forces have no restrictions with regard to the assignment of men or women to the full range of operational and administrative duties. Women, therefore, play a full and meaningful role in all aspects of Defence Forces operations at home and overseas on peacekeeping missions. In this regard, the Defence Forces participates on an international level in the sphere of Women, Peace and Security (WPS). Ireland's third National Action Plan on WPS renews Ireland’s commitment to the Women, Peace and Security agenda, setting out how Ireland will continue to promote and implement the objectives of the agenda in its programme support activities, diplomatic advocacy and policy-making across the interrelated areas of peace, security and development. In relation to overseas deployment, a female Officer in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, is currently serving as Advisor to NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security and a female officer in the Acting rank of Brigadier General has been appointed Deputy Force Commander in the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). In 2016 a female officer commanded a Defence Forces contingent in UNDOF on a six month tour of duty.
The participation by female personnel in all aspects of Defence Forces operations is further exemplified in the Defence Forces Equality Policy and the Defence Forces Diversity and Inclusion Strategy Statement and Action Plan, which outlines the Organisation’s commitment to gender equality and its proactive approaches to recruiting females.
In line with these policies and commitments, a number of initiatives have been implemented to increase the level of female participation in the Defence Forces. For example:
- Special consideration is paid to women as a target group for recruitment and within the general recruitment framework.
- In order to extend the reach to the target demographic of 18-26 year old women, the Defence Forces has initiated a collaboration with Irish sporting bodies, commencing with the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU).
- The introduction of best practices in recruitment such as the adjustment of physical standards for female applicants and a balanced composition between men and women on recruitment and selection boards.
A Gender Advisor has been appointed to promote gender equality policies and training within the Defence Forces. The Defence Forces are committed to gender equality and employ a gender perspective in all policies and regulations. Gender Advisors are available to all Brigades and Services and trained Gender Focal Points are deployed with all overseas units and ships in order to promote a gender perspective in operations.
A Defence Forces Women's Network has been established with the aim of increasing the participation of female personnel at all levels of the organisation. The Network allows women to identify any actual or perceived barriers to participation, which then feed into wider HR retention policies. The Defence Forces were shortlisted for the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) Awards 2018, Diversity & Inclusion category, for its Women’s Network initiative.
A number of family friendly overseas appointments for commissioned and enlisted personnel have been introduced, where the normal 6-month tour of duty can be ‘shared’ with another member of the Defence Forces resulting in a 3 month deployment.
The Defence Forces maternity policy includes measures such as Defence Forces personnel not being detailed for overseas/sea going service until a child has reached the age of two, to allow the mother to care for the child as part of a family friendly policy.
Over the course of the White Paper on Defence 2015, a ten year strategy, further initiatives and projects will be developed to encourage more women to apply for the Defence Forces and to increase female participation at all ranks. This will include a survey to identify any impediments to the advancement of women in the Permanent Defence Force, as well as the impact of the requirements of career courses and overseas service on female retention and advancement.