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A Changing Landscape for Women in the Military

In the face of war, traditional gender roles are changing as more and more Ukrainian women take up arms to defend their country. The full-scale invasion by Russia in February 2022 has led to a significant increase in the number of women serving in the Ukrainian military, with more than 62,000 women currently enlisted in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Roles have diversified as well, seeing women promoted not only to medical or headquarters positions but also to combat units, breaking age-old stereotypes.

For young female platoon leaders like Rubanyak, these changes symbolize progress and garner appreciation from their male peers as they all work together towards a common goal – defending Ukraine against Russian advances.

The Frontlines of Change: Overcoming Gender Bias on the Battlefield

Though society is adapting to the increased participation of women in traditionally male-dominated fields, some level of bias still exists, especially within the military. For instance, Anastasia Dynerman, a lead mechanic repairing railway cars, recounted her experience as both fulfilling and challenging. She operated a heavy machine gun and faced difficulties when men tried to stop her from carrying heavy weapons. Comments about nepotism were made behind her back.

Despite this, Dynerman remains optimistic, believing that change takes time and that conditions are improving for women who choose to serve in the army. The determination and resilience of women like Dynerman represent an invaluable contribution to not just protecting their nation but also paving the way for a more equal and inclusive future.

Filling Employment Gaps and Keeping the Economy Running

With the escalating conflict and new waves of military conscription, Ukraine faces a shortage of skilled workers as men are drafted into service. Simultaneously, hundreds of thousands of women have left the country seeking refuge abroad. The National Bank of Ukraine has reported an estimated increase in job vacancies since 2021.

  • As men leave for war, women play a crucial role in keeping businesses running by taking on challenging tasks and positions typically held by their male counterparts.
  • Employers, faced with a lack of experienced applicants, have lowered requirements and introduced basic training programs to facilitate faster learning and integration into the workforce.
  • Determined women support their colleagues, pledging continued contributions towards achieving victory.

Redefining Traditionally Male-Dominated Fields: The Railroad Industry

Female employees at Ukrainian Railways exemplify this shift, with many stepping up during the war to take on responsibilities traditionally considered “men’s jobs.” Women like Halyna Shevchenko work alongside male peers who prepare equipment and other resources, enabling her to conduct complex repairs previously done exclusively by men. She recognizes her ability to contribute significantly, stating, “Before war, I never done this on my own, I only supervised the process.”

Empowering the Agricultural Sector

The agricultural industry also acknowledges the vital role of women during these trying times. Kernel, one of Ukraine’s largest agricultural producers and exporters, has adapted its recruitment strategies to address worker shortages. According to Natalia Teryakhina, Kernel’s HR director, they have lowered entry requirements and implemented basic training programs that allow anyone to learn and become laboratory assistants or operators from scratch. This successful experiment highlights the significance of female contributions across various industries.

Towards a Brighter, More Inclusive Future

In spite of adversity, Ukrainian women continue to break stereotypes and empower their nation by joining the military, fulfilling critical roles in the workforce, and paving the way for a more equal and inclusive society. As intrinsically resilient individuals, they face challenges head-on and come out stronger on the other side.

This wave of changes has the potential to reshape Ukraine’s societal values not only during the war but also in its aftermath, leading to a new era where opportunities exist equally for all citizens irrespective of their gender.


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