World Defense Show highlights the growing role of women in defense

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The keynote address by HRH Ambassador Reema Bandar Al Saud at World Defense Show’s International Women in Defense day highlights the emerging role of women in the industry in Saudi Arabia and globally.

World Defense Show 2024 was honored to welcome the return of HRH Ambassador Reema Bandar Al Saud, Saudi Ambassador to the United States to the Future Defense Forum, as day four of the event focused once again on International Women in Defense.

The Ambassador spoke about the collaborative roles of diplomacy and the military, and the progress made in breaking the ‘brass’ ceiling, while also highlighting the areas that still need to be addressed.

She said: “Today, globally, 13% of ministers of defense are women, which is outstanding. And women now control many of the biggest defense budgets, not only in Europe, but in the United States, some of whom are with us today. And yet, though women make up roughly half of the world’s population we remain largely underrepresented in traditionally male dominated areas of foreign policy and defense policy.”

The Ambassador highlighted the immense progress made in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a key part of the journey to provide both men and women with equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities, saying: “Our defense ministry has expanded women’s roles in the military. It’s opened a portal for recruitment so women can apply for military jobs in the Navy, the Air Force, Land Forces, Air Defenses, and also health services. Everybody’s participation is important. Every single role in this entity in this organization in this sector is critical. Since it opened several years ago, the Armed Forces women’s cadre Training Center has graduated 885 women who now occupy positions throughout the military.”

She also mentioned that Saudi women in the health services of the Ministry of Defense have earned medals for active service during recent Yemen operations.

The event highlighted the industry’s need to tap into the broadest pool of high-quality talent and create an inclusive culture.

The Ambassador concluded: “The future is being redefined, and only diverse organizations will succeed because it’s that diversity that will help us to see the challenges of the future clearer and to address them in a better way.”

The Ambassador was joined on the stage by senior female figures in the industry addressing the audience including: Heidi Grant, Vice President of Defense Global Growth & Engagement at Boeing Defense, Space & Security (BDS), speaking on the pace of progress; The Honourable Barbara Barrett, Former Secretary of the US Air Force addressing Diversity for Air & Space Innovation and Stephanie Hill, President Rotary and Mission Systems, Lockheed Martin, who summarised and closed the session.

The theme continued across the theatres in Halls 1, 2 and 3, with both male and female leaders addressing the need for and benefits of inclusion and diversity across the defense industry.

World Defense Show 2026, to be held 8-12 Febuary 2026, will continue to highlight the contributions and achievements of women in the defense industry, once again offering a full day to celebrate their leadership and expertise, and to promote diversity, inclusion, and gender equality in defense organizations worldwide.

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