Jacqueline Westermann is a researcher with the International Program at ASPI. Her research interests include security in Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, German foreign and military policy as well as the role of women in peace and security. Prior to joining ASPI, Jacky was a program assistant at the Warsaw office of The German Marshall Fund of the United States. Originally from Germany, she completed a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Law at the University of Muenster, and graduated from the University of St Andrews with a Masters in Peace and Conflict Studies. Jacqueline was interviewed for the WDSN in December, 2018. @jackywestermann
You have been an avid supporter of the WDSN since joining ASPI. You attended our first ever Speed Mentoring event in Canberra and wrote a glowing review for the WDSN blog. Why are initiatives like WDSN so important?
National and international security are still dominated by people ticking the following three boxes: white, old-ish, male. It can be quite disheartening being keen to work in a field that has few examples of diversity and role-models to identify with. While some progress has been made over the last few years, the number of manels and men-dominated publications speak volumes about the industry. Initiatives such as WDSN provide room to create awareness among those women who are interested in a career in security. It can provide opportunities to meet and learn from women working in the field, especially when those women can act as mentors and provide useful guidance and tips on how to make it in this industry.
Outside of your support for our network, you have also written on the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. With Australia due to formulate its second NAP by 2019, what lessons can we learn from your home country, Germany?
It has been such a great opportunity to work more on WPS ever since starting at ASPI. I’ve always been passionate about it but was never in a professional environment working on the subject. Co-organising and editing the Strategist series earlier this year, where we had a variety of fantastic contributors sharing their knowledge, insights and opinions on how WPS can be better implemented, was a wonderful and rewarding experience. In my article for the series, I looked at what the Australian government could learn from Germany, which just implemented its second National Action Plan on WPS. One recommendation from the Global Study on UNSCR 1325 was to share lessons learned and best practices in implementing NAPs on the WPS agenda. As like-minded countries that are avid supporters of the agenda, I wanted to look closer at what I believe Australia could learn from Germany. The main aspects would be a shorter timeframe, which allows governments to more frequently adjust the NAP to changes in security contexts; increasing and facilitating consultations with civil society; and taking into account domestic aspects for the next NAP, especially security concerns of Australia’s diverse women.
As ASPI’s resident Europe-expert, what should Australia be thinking about leading up to next years Brexit vote? You recently wrote a fascinating Special Report on this for ASPI.
Brexit has probably been one of the most frustrating things to follow for me and fellow Europe-watchers over the past two years. Regardless of whether there will be a deal or no deal, it will re-shape European politics significantly, and will have impacts far beyond the EU’s borders. For example, Australia’s future relations with both the UK and no-UK-EU will be affected. Australia has historically been close with the UK and also has tight relations with the EU (a framework agreement has been signed and a free trade agreement is being prepared between Australia and the EU). One area that should be high on Canberra’s agenda is future defence and security relations with the continent. In my latest Special Report for ASPI, I’ve dug a bit deeper into that matter and provided opportunities to deepen relations in that regard with Germany.
Any advice for women trying to get their foot in the door in the defence and security industry?
I’m known to be frank and brutally honest so I won’t claim it’s easy. But—Don’t be dismayed by the dominance of men in this field. It needs women and their perspectives, and most organisations are improving in that regard. Make sure you network and take advantage of initiatives such as the WDSN. Approach women (and men!) working in the field, especially if it is in an area you are interested in—most will be happy to share their expertise and provide advice and may even offer to mentor you. Just be bold and get in touch, asking has never hurt anyone! Get experience in a variety of places to figure out what you enjoy, whether it’s the thinktank world, academia, private industry, media or serving in the police or military. And it’s also okay to realise this industry isn’t for you!
What podcasts are you currently listening to?
Ah podcasts, I never fully got around them (too much thinking going on in my head at the same time), and they certainly were the bane of my existence while I was writing ASPI Suggests every Friday… If I do attempt to listen to one, brevity is usually key. I like the Peace and Gender Podcast every now and then, This American Life and Revisionist History, and Sicherheitspod, a German security politics podcast. Oh, and obviously, as a regular appearing on it, the ASPI podcast ‘Policy, Guns & Money’ ;).
Finally, what strategic issue is currently keeping you up at night?
Where to begin!? Spending a good chunk of my day thinking and writing about European politics with a particular focus on Central Eastern Europe and Russia, I never get bored of panicking. No, but in all seriousness, I still sleep quite well at night and get my 8 hours. Nevertheless, I keep a close eye on the corrosion of democracy in Poland and Hungary, Germany’s military maintenance issues, and the Kremlin’s latest antics.
Updated: 19 Dec 2018