The key task for NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division is to foster awareness and understanding of the alliance, its values, policies and activities, and to increase the level of debate on peace, security and defence related issues.
To this end, this division conducts and supports a wide range of public diplomacy activities, including conferences, seminars and other outreach projects designed to engage with audiences around the world. Currently, more effort is being put in to reach audiences that are not typically aware of NATO’s campaigns, including young people, women and people with no university degree.
We spoke with Carmen Romero, who serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Diplomacy Division at NATO, to see why women’s voices are so important and what outreach initiatives are in operation.
Magda Jakubowska: How would you explain to women why NATO and security is their business?
Carmen Romero: I would like to tell women that security is important because without security we would not be able to live the lives that we do every single day.
This is because the security umbrella we have in place allows us to enjoy our economic prosperity. And therefore, we are able to go to school, to go to university, later we have a possibility to go for a master’s, and then to be also in position to apply for jobs that we like.
One of the things I have discovered is that working in security institutions is fascinating because the security challenges continue to evolve and change and because the security environment is now much more challenging, which means that we are very busy, but we are able to show that we are adapting to the developing environment.
It is also important to show the soft face of security, and that is what we do in security area. For example, we work to help increase the presence of women in security forces, in security institutions, in the security architecture and structures.
I believe you were speaking to my colleague Clare Hutchinson [NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security (WPS)], and she has a very strong mandate to help us, to help NATO in building our defence capacity, our activities supporting partner nations in the Middle East and North Africa while keeping in mind the importance of the role of women in these areas.
As I mentioned before, it is important to highlight what we do in terms of the science for peace, proving how significant it is to have the soft side of security. This is an area that probably can attract more women, so security is not just about military.
Security is about policy and the military, and it is a fascinating area. At NATO, we try to make this organization more attractive to women. Since I work in public diplomacy – my division has supported our Recruitment Division, and we are using our recruitment processes to show that women have an important role at NATO.
For example, one of the things we have done recently is a video about bodyguards supporting the security of the Secretary General. We have shown in that video that we also want to attract more women to do that job as we lack females in our bodyguard teams.
We use our public communications to showcase the soft side of security and to explain to our public that everything NATO does is aimed at preventing – not creating – conflict. We also communicate our efforts to project stability in our neighbourhood because that will help us to be more secure.
It is true that we have made progress, we see more women in security institutions in NATO nations, but we do not have enough. We must continue to work together, and women should help each other in this process.
Indeed. Are you trying to develop this idea of engaging more women in national armies?
We are working with our member states to help them find ways to attract more women, but of course, this is a responsibility of the individual nations, and the only thing we can do is to encourage them.
But the fact is that we are seeing more and more female defence ministers as well as female security advisors to defence minsters in the NATO nations. Again, we do not have enough, and we need more.
However, there is an increased sensitivity from governments on that topic, and we are joining forces. For example, I understand now that the Canadian Defence Minister is going to work with the Spanish Defence Minister – both female ministers – on a project related to our mission in Iraq focused on advising the Iraqi security forces on how to attract and recruit more women in their armed forces.
Where our role is very important is in helping countries that are less developed also promote the role of women in the security structures and military forces.
In Poland, for example, only 6% of the soldiers are female though none have ever reached the rank of general in the contemporary army in Poland.
This is where I think we can use public communications. Because we can use the TV, the digital world or social media to show that this is not just a man’s world – this is also a woman’s world, and we can play a role in helping our civil society, our people, our public to understand that better.
I have not thought of that before, but this is also a very interesting area for me as a woman. One of the tools that we have at our disposal is public communications to explain the importance of security and to explain the importance of security forces and armed forces, and this is not a man’s world anymore.
I am glad to hear that! So, what does this diversity give to NATO?
The diversity of women and men makes any advice to our leadership, to our Secretary General, richer. For the first time in NATO’s history we have a female Deputy Secretary General, and I can tell you that it is not because you are a woman or a man, you must be very well-prepared and willing to work very hard.
I think women must work even more in the sense that women feel that to get there they must show that they are good. And it is true – maybe we must work more, maybe our professional life is more challenging because we also most of the time must deal with family lives as well.
But, all in all, any advice will be richer coming from both men and women as long as it is well informed. More gender diversity makes this organisation richer. This is also true in the case of governments or different institutions.
According to the World Bank, gender equality brings more stability and prosperity for countries. Do you think it is necessary to bring more women in the countries that are not as developed as the NATO community?
Absolutely! I think it is necessary to have women and men working together at all levels in any institution, to increase the level of diversity
One of the things that we also have at NATO – as we have 29 member-states – is not just gender equality but also diversity in terms of nations. We work with colleagues from the 28 other nations, and this also makes this organisation very rich.
We have different cultures, different experiences, and by working together, we are making this organization work more efficiently; our output is stronger and more robust.
We still have a lot of work to do, and from my little box in public diplomacy I am trying to do everything to promote the role of women and to attract the interest of women to apply for jobs in this organisation.
But it is also important to inform women in our member-states what NATO does. So, there are direct ways to reach women.
One of the things we are doing in the Public Diplomacy Division is that we have realised, based on opinion polls, that there are specific segments of the public in our member-states who know less or care less about what NATO is and does. Namely, this would be young people, women, and people who have no university degree. We are looking at the information channels that women in our member-states so as to explain to women what we all are doing here.
As you said at the beginning, women sometimes do not help each other enough; one of the things I do for my female colleagues who are applying for promotions or more senior positions is help them prepare. In NATO, you will only get a job based on your merits, not because you are a woman.
In the end, we have to work very hard, and I try to do that because I really believe in the strengths of women working with each other and helping each other. As you said, maybe we need to also work more on that and invest more on that together, so that #WomenAreNATO. Women make NATO stronger!
This article is part of the #DemocraCE project series run by Visegrad/Insight and the Res Publica Foundation in cooperation with the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) as well as editors of leading newspapers across Central Europe.
Interviewed by Magda Jakubowska – Vice President of the Board of Res Publica Foundation and coordinator of the #WomenAreNATO initiative at Visegrad/Insight.