This analysis puts the spotlight on gendered views of security policies. Do men and women in Germany, France, and Poland view security policies differently, and if so, how? Our systematic analysis of Security Radar 2023 data covers attitudes towards military means in the Russian war in Ukraine, towards weapons delivery and changes to European security architecture, as well as towards European integration of Ukraine. Security Radar: Spotlight on the Gender Knowledge Gap in Security Policies reveals a gender knowledge gap. Women answer the survey's questions with 'I don't know' significantly more often than men across all three countries. Women show higher confidence in answering Security Radar questions related to personal worries and risks.
In all three countries, the patterns of women giving IDK answers are very similar. This consistently high IDK ratio strongly suggests that the gender knowledge gap is a structural phenomenon embedded in society, not an individual lack of interest or capacity, or a result attributable to French, German or Polish society.
Women gave IDK responses less frequently when it came to personal concerns and worries. But the more specifically political the question, the higher the IDK quota among women. This pattern indicates that women are more likely to have formed views on personal concerns and be more confident expressing them than on broader concerns in the public, political sphere.
The low IDK ratio of men might indicate that men tend to avoid an IDK response even if it might be warranted, for example when a question entails many unknown variables. One explanation is social desirability bias. Men are socialised in patriarchal societies to be knowledgeable about security policy. As a result, men are likely to guess more than women regardless of whether they possess adequate knowledge. This response behaviour indicates that men tend to answer questions in alignment with what they feel is expected of them.
Women show higher confidence in answering Security Radar questions related to personal worries and risks. This aligns with how women are still socialised today in accordance with gender roles in patriarchal societies, namely as caretakers with a mandate for participation in the care sector. When policymakers consult with different security actors, it is important that they create environments that encourage ‘unusual suspects’ to become legitimate providers of knowledge for security policies, including actors working on soft security issues. A diverse representation of interest groups working on social protection and social security in consultation rounds can substantially increase the probability of gathering information that reflects societies’ complex intersectional realities.
The Security Radar offers insights into attitudes towards militarisation across the genders. In all three countries, women are consistently less inclined to favour military means. Policymakers should make an effort to consider the potential gendered impacts of security policies they are already implementing. This must go beyond mere virtue signalling. A gendered evaluation of existing security policies is therefore crucial. It can inform future policy responses that prioritise the security of women and other marginalised groups. With the help of a feminist-informed analysis of existing policies, policymakers can ensure that security policies address diverse needs and perspectives instead of perpetuating structural inequalities.
Considering the high IDK quotas in response to questions in the Security Radar, the manner in which all three states communicate their security policies needs to be revised. This gendered analysis of the Security Radar illustrates how women do not (believe they) possess the requisite knowledge of security policies. Women tend to think that security policies are not their concern. That becomes extremely evident when looking at the data on abstract and macro-level questions. By integrating gender-responsive messaging, decision-makers can more effectively address context-specific measures that resonate with very diverse audiences in their countries. For example, in terms of visuals, it is important to showcase women in leading speaking positions. It is also essential to present examples of actual lived experiences. Last but not least, it matters what work is cited and whose words are used. This includes campaigns, press conferences or political education. Most importantly, gender-responsive messaging has to be done via different channels, in line with audiences’ access and ability.