Cheryl Pearce - Nothing but respect

Running time
3 min
Date made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


I have never felt more equal and more comfortable in my gender in those environments. I had nothing but respect from all the nations. And it really was a non-issue from a gender perspective. Probably, what I found more was because I was only the second ever female force commander, the UN tended to roll me out in more of a gender perspective. Like in Australia, it would be about more trying to fit in and not playing up the gender perspective. In the UN, they were so proud about having senior female leadership that I was used often in a WPS agenda. I would travel to speak on it. I was able to be talking about what female peacekeepers bring to a mission.

And when you think about it as helping civil society, supporting protection of civilians, and being part of the community and returning a country to peace and security, and the stability within a country, you need to have women as part of the dialogue and as part of the narrative. You can't achieve that through men alone. But if the peacekeeping force doesn't represent the community by which they're serving, and the country by which they're supporting, you're unable to achieve the mandate to the best of your ability. So it was really about the promotion of additional females. But for me, the term that they use when they communicate with me, I'm either the force commander or the general. It was not a ma'am. It was not gendered. It was just my role.

They respected me for the job that I was selected to do. And gender from a leadership didn't even and come into it. So it really was not an issue. And it just enabled me then to really create that inclusive and diverse work environment. You've got, whether it be whatever country that is contributing, you had the ability to respect the culture, the background, the gender, education training, and you are able to really harness using the values-based approach to get them to use their voice, and to be able to...

They had good ideas. And it might not have been as quick as we would expect in Australia, but we didn't have a learned base by which to work from. So we came on a professional development journey together. And then we're able to work with each of the contingents to be able to achieve their best. And if you start with the premise that everyone is trying their best, and they're all trying to improve and work, you start to be able to pull together, through good leadership, excellent teams, empower those that are on the ground to be able to achieve the outcomes you're seeking.

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