Female soldier push up training at military air force base Sean Murphy/Getty Images

Why We Need Women in the Military

As the nature of the military’s tasks changes in many regions, women's potential contributions become even more valuable. To enable women to realize this potential, however, persistent discrimination and other challenges – related, for example, to sexual harassment, health, and work-life balance – must be addressed.

ISLAMABAD – Saudi Arabia’s decision to allow women to serve in the military – part of its Vision 2030 economic-reform program – has been widely celebrated as a step forward for gender parity in the notoriously unequal kingdom. But, when women begin to enlist, the battle for real equality within the military will have just begun.

Beyond the explicit constraints that are expected – women will probably have to secure approval from their legal male guardians, and may be limited to non-combat roles – there is the need to dismantle the military’s rigid patriarchal systems. This will be a difficult feat, requiring sustained government commitment, effective organizational planning, and deep personal fortitude from the women who enlist.

I should know. In 2001, I was one of the first women to join the Pakistan Air Force (PAF). But the road was not easy.