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Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks Remarks for International Women's Day

Today, as we observe International Women's Day, we celebrate the tremendous contributions of women and girls in making the world a safer, more secure place.

Last year, the Department of Defense celebrated the 75th anniversary of the integration of women in the armed services. Although women have played a role in our nation's defense since its founding, the full inclusion of women in our military has often been met with resistance. But because of this historic step, and the progress we've continued to make as a nation, our military is stronger and more effective than ever.

Women make up about 25 percent of our total force, serving all across the Department and bringing the full breadth and depth of their skills and expertise to bear. They're commanding, innovating, building, teaching, advising... They're protecting our values and defending our nation—and they're doing it at all levels of leadership and rank.

And that's as it should be. Because women belong everywhere that decisions are made—from the backroom to the boardroom to the battlefield. And we, as a nation, are fortunate to be able to tap into this incredible pool of talent.                               

That talent doesn't only exist in the United States. Each and every day, women worldwide are exhibiting extraordinary courage in the face of extreme odds and crisis to secure peace, freedom, and dignity for not only themselves but also for others.

When women are given a seat at the table and have opportunities to lead, they hold the power to achieve lasting change. And that's no exaggeration.

Studies show that when women participate in peace negotiations, parties are more likely to come to a just settlement and have it result in lasting stability. And that is hands-down a net benefit for all.

During the pandemic, women peacebuilders and peacekeepers around the world showed incredible leadership to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 and amplify women's voices in the response and recovery.

In Ukraine, conflict has exacerbated gender-based violence and inequality. Women are working tirelessly to defend their country and ensure that women have meaningful opportunities to participate in humanitarian and reconstruction efforts.

And in the Middle East, women have long played key roles in negotiating and sustaining peace and addressing the root causes and conditions that bring about conflict.

Since Day One, one of the Secretary's top Departmental priorities has been taking care of our people. That's why we remain focused on expanding equal opportunity and reinforcing the support that allows women in the workforce to thrive—such as competitive pay, childcare, healthcare, and workplace safety.

There is more work to do to ensure that women and girls are given the tools and access they need to realize their full potential. We recognize that it matters for our global safety and security. It matters if we want long-lasting stability and prosperity. And it matters for the wellbeing of women and girls everywhere who deserve the chance to achieve success and live their lives on their own terms.

Thank you.