Mother of four leads battle to recruit more women into Army
A MOTHER of four who served in Afghanistan with the Army is leading the battle to get more women into the Defence Forces.
Commandant Jayne Lawlor (38) admits it was tougher leaving her son and three stepchildren at home with husband Derek than being one of seven Irish troops based at NATO headquarters in Kabul.
But she says the military is making progress in getting women to enlist and progress through the ranks while having a family.
"Having just returned from a six-month trip to Afghanistan, leaving four children at home with my husband, I fully realise how difficult it is with children," said Cmt Lawlor.
"It is the partners at home who should be given the medal. I had served in Lebanon, Liberia and Kosovo without children and a family does make it much more difficult for all parties."
After Kosovo in 2006, she took a career break to have her son.
Cmt Lawlor, the Army's gender, equality and diversity officer, revealed that recruitment campaigns have been launched through social media, sports clubs and schools to attract more female applicants.
The first women joined the Defence Forces in 1980 and the number has grown to 564 across the Army, Air Corps and Navy. Women now make up 6pc of the forces.
Cmt Lawlor said: "We are making progress as we now have three female lieutenant-colonels in the Defence Forces and also have our first female sergeant-major, which is hugely positive and will demonstrate to other females that it is possible. The number of females who are mothers deploying overseas has increased."
She maintained that the Defence Forces were committed to increasing the number of women intakes and were working on initiatives to support troops during pregnancy, maternity leave and while being the primary carer at home.
Options being examined include completing long career courses in modules and sharing overseas trips. The aim is to help women to navigate careers in the Defence Forces and progress to higher ranks.
Cmt Lawlor added: "The message that we are trying to get out is that the Defence Forces are a great career for females.
"We are actively trying to improve it even further to make it even more compatible with family life as many people seem to think that the two conflict."