Czech army cleared to get first woman general

Lenka Šmerdová, photo: Jana Deckerová / Czech Army

The Czech Army is due to get its first female general. Colonel Lenka Šmerdová, who works as an aide to the chief of the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces, should be raised to the rank of general on May 8, to become the highest-ranking woman in the Czech military.

Lenka Šmerdová,  photo: Jana Deckerová / Czech Army
Making public his decision to appoint the first female general of the Czech Army, Defense Minister Martin Stropnický said that it was high time that the country, which boasts a relatively high number of women in the army, had a female general. With nearly 3,000 professional female soldiers, the Czech Republic currently holds fifth spot among NATO countries as regards the number of women serving in the army. Jan Šulc is spokesman for the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces:

“At the moment, there are exactly 2985 women, which makes up 13 percent of all professional soldiers. Most of them are in the ranks of Sergeant Majors and among the lower officers, but you can also see them among the higher officers.

“I wouldn’t say that there is a typical female position in the army. Nowadays, you can really see them across the whole sector in all sections and specialisations. There are pilots, drivers of military vehicles, administrative and heath care workers, and they also wok in ground forces and in the air force.”

Colonel Lenka Šmerdová, 52, joined the army in 1984. Speaking about her motivation, she said she wanted to have an interesting job, which would be different from what was available to women at that time, which was usually a secretary or a shop assistant.

Ten years ago, when she was promoted to the rank of Colonel, she said that “to prove her qualities in the army, a woman must always be a little bit better than a man.”

Martin Stropnický,  photo: Filip Jandourek
Mrs. Šmerdová currently works as an aide to the chief of the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces, General Josef Bečvář and is also in charge of the army’s recruiting office. Speaking about her promotion to the rank of general, Defence Minister Martin Stropnický praised her work, saying that the Army had succeeded in recruiting thousands of newcomers under her leadership, despite low unemployment and high competition on the Czech job market.

Meanwhile, gender experts have welcomed the move, hoping it will serve as an example for other women. Veronika Šprincová works at the Prague-based NGO Forum 50 percent:

“Since Forum 50 percent stands for gender equal society, especially in decision-making professions, we definitely appreciate that the government approved the first female general and we hope that she will be appointed by the head of state. This would be a clear signal that women can penetrate into traditionally male professions, so we definitely think it is a very good step.”