Cover: Women, Peace, and Security in Action

Women, Peace, and Security in Action

Including Gender Perspectives in Department of Defense Operations, Activities, and Investments

Published Oct 18, 2023

by Joslyn Fleming, Chandra Garber, Karen M. Sudkamp, Elisa Yoshiara, Abigail S. Post, Victoria M. Smith, Khadesia Howell


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Research Questions

  1. Why do WPS and gender diversity matter for DoD operations, activities, and investments?
  2. How have WPS principles been applied to DoD operations, activities, and investments?
  3. What lessons can be learned for incorporating WPS principles into future DoD operations, activities, and investments?

In light of the five-year anniversary of the Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017, the RAND Corporation sought to understand and portray strategic, operational, and tactical applications of Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) principles in U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) operations and activities. A series of vignettes highlights specific efforts to implement DoD's WPS Strategic Framework and Implementation Plan in the military services and during operations with allies and partners. Although successful efforts to implement WPS principles are directly tied to specific policies and initiatives, this project demonstrates a growing gender-diverse and inclusive culture within DoD that supports grassroots efforts to apply gender perspectives to DoD activities and operations. However, though there are demonstrated successes operationalizing and implementing WPS across DoD, room for improvement exists to ensure the continued implementation of WPS principles to support U.S. military activities and operations that require diverse perspectives and flexibility to confront adversaries in a competitive environment.

Key Findings

Understanding the operational environment from a gender perspective can help DoD identify how it can advance WPS within the conduct of its operations, activities, and investments abroad whether it is cooperating, competing, or in conflict

  • Integration of WPS into a multi-national training exercise in Guyana led to elimination of structural barriers impeding a partner nation’s capability to meaningfully employ female soldiers.
  • A gendered approach to Defense Support of Civil Authorities mission during Operation Allies Welcome enabled protection of vulnerable populations and equitable access to information and services.
  • The U.S. commitment to WPS can bolster its goal to be a preferred partner of choice with allies and partners by demonstrating a commitment to ensuring human rights and the rule of law.

Inclusion of men and women in diverse roles facilitates problem-solving required for complex security situations

  • Failure to understand women's roles in society can affect security outcomes in situations with partner nations.
  • Women can play a critical role in social engineering and cybersecurity. For example, with the proliferation of information technology, which has enabled the use of fabricated online personas, female personas controlled by women operatives tend to be more convincing.
  • Targeted gender advisory work can have spillover effects. In a different vignette, an officer identified a gap in DoD-provided training surrounding modern slavery and human trafficking, which was important for personnel who have a role in partner countries.
  • Women-led organizations can act as intermediaries to address security concerns and help understand the importance of women’s perspectives in negotiations and coalition-building.


  • Strategic competition against China and Russia is now the national security priority, which provides opportunities to implement WPS principles across military operations to counter those countries’ growing influence.
  • Considering gender perspectives when interacting with foreign partners and within the U.S. military will provide opportunities to highlight shared values at the expense of adversaries.
  • Without an effort to integrate both women and men into all roles across DoD, the military will not be able to meet the security situations of today and tomorrow that will require people to unpack complexity and solve problems not as a leader in isolation but cooperatively.
  • Following the protests over systemic racial injustice in 2020, discussions surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion have highlighted the criticality of intersectionality in WPS implementation. As DoD's implementation of WPS continues, intersectionality should be at the forefront.
  • In the next five years, efforts to expand the work of gender advisers should continue, along with building a culture within DoD that aligns with WPS principles, the WPS Act, and the Strategic Framework and Implementation Plan.

This research was sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy and conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Center of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD).

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