Thursday, 10 June 2010

Women in New Zealand Navy ship hit 20%

This is a really interesting new story about women in the NZ navy, contrasting them to the Australian and UK navies.As someone who for 30 years has been watching equal opps changes on ships, I find it fascinating, especially in the light of US women being finally trained for submarine duty (see my earlier post.)

'Navy says ships could not go to sea without women, NZPA May 11, 2010, 3:16 pm

The navy frigate HMNZS Te Kaha arrives in China next week with women comprising 20 percent of its crew.

The Anzac-class frigate left Auckland five weeks ago on a four-month deployment with the supply ship HMNZS Endeavour to Asia, Canada and North America and both ships were due to arrive in China on Thursday.

Women have been in the navy since the Women's Royal New Zealand Naval Service (WRNZNS) was established during the war in 1942.They served on shore posts and on harbour launches only, freeing up men for active service at sea.

The WRNZNS was disbanded in 1977 but in 1986 the navy allowed women to go to sea, initially in the non-combat ship, HMNZS Monowai. By 1994 all navy ships were open to sea service by women.The navy now says without women in the crews, many of its ships would not be able to go to sea.

The New Zealand navy has higher ratios of women than the navies of Australia or Britain, with 23.4 percent overall compared with 17.5 percent and 9.3 percent respectively.

The New Zealand army (14 percent women) and air force (17.5 percent) also has more women in the ranks than Australia (9.7 percent for the army and 16.6 percent for the air force) and Britain (8.2 percent army and 12.3 percent air force).

In the latest issue of the navy magazine Navy Today, warrant officer of the navy Warrant Officer Dean Bloor said before women were introduced, the navy had several concerns, including the mental and physical differences between men and women.

He said there was also the "traditional view of only men at sea. Fortunately over time these concerns have been overwhelmingly dispelled." Most people in the navy had joined since 1986 and had never served in a navy where women were not allowed to go to sea.

During the deployment the two ships would exercise with Singaporean, Malaysian and Australian forces in the South China Sea. Te Kaha would berth at Shanghai to support the New Zealand exhibition at the Shanghai Expo, and Endeavour would visit South Korea.

Both ships would sail to Canada to mark the centenary celebrations of the Canadian navy before heading down the west coast of America, across the Pacific to Hawaii and back to New Zealand.During the deployment the ships would visit ports at Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego and Honolulu but the navy said they would not be involved in exercises with American military forces.'

This acceptance is a good example of what is happening in the British navy too - that now there is a new generation who have never known single-sex ships. So it is easier for men to see women as simply shipmates, not exceptional creatures from Dumb Bimboland or China Dollsville.

But how telling that the HMNZS Te Kaha is still only 20 per cent, not 50 per cent - or even 70 per cent! - crewed by women.

I wonder what percentage of the Russian Navy, who were such pioneers in allowing women such as Valentino Orlikova (see pic) to work in the Soviet Merchant Navy, is now female? And what are the obstacles, still, to having a gender-balanced ship's complement? In the past women have been deterred by a hostile culture, sexual harassment, discriminatory promotion procedures and conditions that just don't fit with what modern women want of life - such as motherhood AND a career.

If you - like me - want to read Dean Bloor's full article you'll find The Navy Today June issue is not yet posted on the web. But when it is you can find it at

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