Recently, a photograph of four female defence ministers of Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Germany went viral. They are Ine Eriksen Søreide (Norway), Karin Enström (Sweden), Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert (Netherlands), and Ursula von der Leyen (Germany).
The photograph was taken in one of the conference rooms at a hotel in Munich, the venue for an annual security conference. The ministers of Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands welcomed their new German counterpart. The Dutch defence minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert’s tweet with the photograph spread online quickly. Sweden’s foreign minister, Carl Bildt, retweeted it with a comment “True Power Girls” which went on to be retweeted almost 2,000 times.
There were diverse responses from netizens: One said, “That’s how global peace can be reached.” The other said, “The photo implies the diminished importance of the defence ministry in the post-cold war era, rather than a smashed glass ceiling.” A number of comments read, “They’re women, not girls.”
The Guardian said, “Female defence ministers pledged to break Europe’s old boys’ network.” Hennis-Plasschaert is quoted as saying, “The Dutch politician Neelie Kroes once said to me that old boys' networks are the oldest form of cartels we have in Europe. She was right, but things are changing, and women can do similar things now."
All four women took different paths to their current roles. Whereas Sweden and Norway’s defence ministers are already the third and fifth female politicians in their posts, their German and Dutch counterparts are the first. Sweden's Karin Enström is the only one of the four women with military experience. She currently holds the rank of captain in the marines. Ine Eriksen Søreide, 37, the youngest of the four, is one of rising stars of Norwegian politics. Germany’s Ursula von der Leyen is a potential successor to Angela Merkel.
The photo suggests a new trend in the European politics: female defence ministers. In addition to these countries, Spain, France, and Britain had female defence ministers as well. The U.S. Business Insider reported, “In an age where people are questioning the male-dominated spheres of the military all over the world, such a trend makes sense.”