Women’s Affairs Advisor: IDF leads in gender equality

Brig. Gen. Rachel Tevet-Wiesel

Brig. Gen. Tevet-Wiesel: “A more gender-diverse army does not only benefit women – it is beneficial for the IDF (Zahal) as a whole and for the State of Israel”

Date: 15/02/2013, 11:00 AM     Author: Yair Barzilai

The IDF (Zahal) Advisor to the Chief of Staff on Women’s Affairs, Brig. Gen. Rachel Tevet-Wiesel, recently addressed the annual World Women’s International Zionist Organization’s (WIZO) Meeting of Representatives, sitting on a panel of prominent women leaders in the fields of medicine, education, sports and the advancement of the status of women.

Brig. Gen. Tevet-Wiesel spoke about the vital role of women in the IDF (Zahal), while maintaining that there is still a lot of work ahead.

“We are the people’s army, but that does not mean that everyone should be the same. We embrace the idea that every soldier has his or her own identity, beliefs and strengths, and the same goes for the role of women in the IDF (Zahal),” Brig. Gen. Tevet-Wiesel she said. “We have to keep in mind that a more gender-diverse army does not only benefit women – it is beneficial for the IDF (Zahal) as a whole and for the State of Israel.”

Responding to a question from the audience, Brig. Gen. Tevet-Wiesel referred to evolving modern military needs and explained how women are at the forefront of the battlefield, both in combat and non-combat roles.”During [Operation] Pillar of Defense, most of the action took place off the battlefield, with drone operators and intelligence officers playing a major role in the operation,” she said. 

Changing perceptions

Brig. Gen. Tevet-Wiesel was appointed Advisor to the Chief of the General Staff on Women’s Affairs in 2011, after having served in various senior roles in the IDF (Zahal), including most recently as president of the Central and Air Force District Military Tribunal.

During an exclusive interview with the IDF (Zahal) Website, the Advisor noted that while she is proud of the growing presence of female soldiers in combat roles, she is looking forward to welcoming more female soldiers in other positions which could benefit from their presence. “On the one hand, we are opening more and more jobs which had previously been unavailable to women,” she explained. “On the other hand, it is not enough to open new jobs – we need to fill existing ones which are open to women but don’t have a high enough demand.”

According to Brig. Gen Tevet-Wiesel, the heart of the problem lies in education and the way certain jobs are marketed to, and perceived by, both genders. Additionally, procuring appropriate equipment and making adjustments in other areas are necessary steps in adapting the various fields for female soldiers.

“The technology and cyber field for instance, which is open to women, does not have enough [women] because young girls are not guided towards it, based on their education and motivation. We are looking at our options on how to better market this kind of field, how to better prepare them in terms of equipment,” Brig. Gen. Tevet-Wiesel said.

Brig. Gen. Tevet-Wiesel said that another problem arises when commanders view potential candidates differently based on gender – an error that the IDF (Zahal) seeks to change. “Of course, if there are any gender barriers, we need to ensure they are addressed and removed, but we have come a long way and are leading the world in gender equality,” she said.