Feminisation in the army is not a goal to be achieved but a reflection of a strong reality, with an average rate of 10% in 2016. Equality is one of the founding values of the armed forces and, because it is one of the nation’s leading figures, defence must be exemplary, whether in terms of pay, career or access to responsibilities.
In addition to the requirement of discipline, availability and self-sacrifice that make up the specificity of the profession of arms, each soldier is potentially called upon to fight; it is therefore imperative to maintain a minimum physical level, regardless of gender. Thus, only the sports evaluation imposes tests and scales adapted to female staff in order not to penalise them during the initial selection phase and to facilitate, as for men, the orientation towards the job that is best suited to their potential.
Since the expected physical requirement is not the same for all positions, it makes sense to find more women in support or support units than in combat units. Out of the 1200 people in the 2nd Marine Infantry Regiment (2nd RIMa) of Le Mans, for example, there are “only” 19 women, but among them, the president of the non-commissioned soldiers elected last year with 76% of the vote. On the other hand, the army’s electronic warfare regiments (44th and 54th transmission regiments) are among the most feminised in France. About 30% of the “code breakers”, linguists and analysts are women, mainly managers, technicians and very high level experts.
Finally, like any military, women work in the field and, with the professionalization of the armed forces, more and more of them are engaged in missions. Thus, in October 2016, of the 6,388 army personnel deployed on external operations, 294 were women, or 4.6% of the projected population.
The president of the volunteer conscripts of the 2nd Marine Infantry Regiment was the first woman elected to this position. As such, it represents the 856 non-commissioned members of its Marine Troop Regiment.
Elected with a majority that would make any presidential candidate dream, Master Corporal Nathalie keeps her head on her shoulders. Seven months after her election, she took up her position as President of the Volunteer Army Engagement Volunteers (PEVAT) of the 2nd Marine Infantry Regiment (2nd RIMa).
Why did you choose to introduce yourself as a PEVAT?
To tell you the truth, I had never thought about it before I was elected. Not because being a woman was a blocking factor, but I am a reserved person who does not like to expose himself. After that, I was always convinced of the importance of category representatives. They play an essential role, especially with young people. They are ″la passerelle″ between the chain of command and the Regimental Porpoises for everything related to orientation, career development, material and personal problems they may encounter. The role of PEVAT is demanding: he can be a confidant, he must be exemplary, mature, attentive and tenacious but, under no circumstances, he is a social worker and even less a superior. At the time of the election, it can be said that I was a little pushed by the others to run. After more than ten years in the regiment, people know me, they know what I’m worth. It was this trust of my peers and leaders that convinced me to take the plunge. The desire to see the other side of the picture, to break the routine, did the rest.
A marine infantry regiment is a rather atypical choice for a woman?
At 20 years old, I had no consideration for a particular weapon, already because the Internet did not exist and the army remained discreet towards the population. I dreamed of adventures, of being independent. The taste for the land, for effort, for travel, are not dreams reserved for men. I was able to achieve these aspirations within the Navy troops and in particular at the 2nd RIMa. In the marine infantry, physical fitness is very important. In this respect, men will always have greater abilities than women. But mentally, I find girls stronger. In this martial world, they know that they are expected at the turn, that nothing will be forgiven them. I have derived from these trials a moral strength that I am striving to transmit. It is no coincidence that I mentored young people when I joined the regiment in 2003.
In your opinion, has the place of women in the army changed?
I do not hide from you that, during the first meeting of category presidents, some were surprised to see the new PEVAT of 2, especially in the Marine Troops! I understand it perfectly but I was very quickly accepted. When I arrived at the 2nd RIMa, there were very few women. Today, they represent 1.7% of the workforce. The mentality about the place of women in the army has changed a lot. My background proves it. If I can inspire other women, that’s great, but the bottom line is that we are all soldiers. We all belong to the same family.