Defence Minister salutes our military women on Women’s Day

Women are joining the New Zealand Defence Force in record numbers and are making an invaluable contribution to New Zealand’s security, says Defence Minister Ron Mark.

Mr Mark, in observing International Women’s Day today, says that there are currently 2,996 military and civilian women in the New Zealand Defence Force, filling around one quarter of its total personnel (24%).

Meanwhile, the proportion of women in uniform – the Regular Force - has risen to 17.5% (1,631 women), one of the highest rates of women’s participation in the armed forces anywhere in the world. The Navy has the highest proportion of women in uniform at 23.8%, followed by Air Force – 19.2%, and Army with 13.6%.

“Women are contributing in every way to our Defence Force’s success. .As I visit our camps and bases, and overseas deployments, it is clear that women are integral to every facet of our armed forces. Not only are they sailors, soldiers, and Air Force personnel, our women are coders, bomb disposers, engineers, logisticians, lawyers, doctors, mathematicians, planners, policy writers and technology experts.”

New Zealand has often been a leader in equity issues in the military. For example, in 1977 New Zealand integrated women into the Regular Force, and in 2000 New Zealand removed the final barriers to women serving in combat roles – long before many of our traditional allies. So on the occasion of International Women’s Day, I want to especially highlight the 26 Defence Force women currently deployed overseas on active operations (around 15% of all those deployed).

It is also significant that the winners of the prestigious Defence Force Person of the Year for the last two years running have both been women.

“This year’s Women’s Day theme is about achieving gender balance. I am encouraged that women are looking to Defence careers in record numbers, with 25 percent of all recruiting registration and applications for our Navy, Army and Air Force currently coming from women.

“The NZDF has recognised that becoming a more diverse and inclusive organisation is vital as it looks to remain combat ready and operationally excellent. On International Women’s Day I am determined that the New Zealand Defence Force will continue working hard to increase the number of women in uniform, and supporting women in amazing and unique career opportunities.

"While a lot of progress has been made, we still have some way to go.  It is my expectation that we will increasingly see more women assuming senior command responsibilities throughout the Defence Force,” says Ron Mark.