Women in the Hungarian Armed Forces

Judit Bolgar

The number of professional and contractual female soldiers in the Hungarian Armed Forces increased annually during the 1990s. The growth in the number of female soldiers in ensign and junior officer positions was especially noteworthy. Presently women make almost 25 percent of the officers and ensign force.

This delightful though problematic growth can be traced back to two causes. One is a significant change in the proportion (the absolute number) of civil and officer assignments in the Hungarian Armed Forces, the other the outpouring of professionals (men) from the military due to better opportunities in civilian life. The Hungarian Armed Forces must therefore cope with a situation in which not only are women soldiers assigned to positions traditionally regarded as appropriate for women but also to many traditionally male positions.

Despite the increased number of women employed in its midst, the military remains both physically and psychologically a male profession. That is, confidence, roughness, determination, endurance of physical hardships, competitiveness, the ability to make quick decisions and form opinions, lack of sentimentality, and attempting to be rational–all regarded as male characteristics–are desired. The integration of women into the military who have characteristics differing from the above or who manifest these characteristics in way alien to their sex is a task that needs special attention.

Special attention should be given not only to the woman choosing the military profession but also to the environment receiving her, with, it is hoped, self criticism and tolerance of the “other.”

Sometimes this integration is problematic, due to leadership factors, especially when members of society confuse special attention with special treatment, i.e. the receiving or giving of special allowances.

Special treatment or allowances in the military are not given for “nominal claims” by the “weaker sex” but are given in special medical or social situations. Moreover, this special treatment applies to both men and women in the force. (There is only one allowance that is given to women only, i.e. one regarding pregnancy, childbirth, and child care).

There is a need for special attention, if not for special treatment, on the part of female soldiers as well as their superiors, because society and the family socialize a model that traditionally differentiates between the socializing norms for the sexes. As a result, the family and educational institutions naturally make more effort to develop characteristics important and useful to the military in boys; than in girls.

Institutions for socialization into the military need to correct those attitudes but can do so only when lawful and justified by helping the organization’s effective functioning. Those directing and enforcing the corrective process are obliged to accomplish it in ways that enrich the individual and do not cause physical or psychologically harm.

Military training for women today is a tough assignment. It is only since 1994 that young women have had the chance to take certain military officer courses. The officer training schools also–in part due to necessity, in part to promote equal opportunity for women–have to deal with an increased number of women. The drastic change in the ratio of the effective military force (civil servant to professional ratio) means that the training of a significantly larger number of women (with many years’ experience in civil service) as junior officers requires considerable effort.

To get an objective picture of the characteristic value orientations, working conditions, and professional and work-related motivations of professional female soldiers, we have expanded our research in those areas. I would like to introduce some research results connected to value orientations, motivations, and self-value of female soldiers.

Firstly I would like to call attention to the results in a thesis written by Captain Attila Argalasz (a psychology student; I was involved in the values orientation test as his thesis director). Captain Argalasz’s value test was taken by military officers and by future officers, i.e., male and female students at military school. The values list, produced with proper research methods, rates the results of the above-mentioned three categories. The list can be seen in Table 1.

Table 1. Values of Military and Future Military Officers

Very Important


Education K – boys 12 14

B – girls 8 16

Z – students 8 10

Honesty K – boys 5 21

B – girls 4 20

Z – students 8 11

Steady financial background K – boys 2 12

B – girls 7

Z – students 4 12

Steady family background K – boys 2 11

B – girls 8

Z – students 2 13

Empathy K – boys 1 15

B – girls 2 17

Z – students 4 5

Physical fitness K – boys 13 12

B – girls 12 11

Z – students 2 16

Receptiveness to new ideas K – boys 1 17

B – girls 16

Z – students 18

Determination K – boys 10 15

B – girls 17 9

Z – students 5 15

Sense of vocation K – boys 16 9

B – girls 19 7

Z – students 10 10

Foreign languages K – boys 4 18

B – girls 4 21

Z – students 4 16

Intelligence K – boys 13 13

B – girls 11 15

Z – students 9 11

Communication skills K – boys 4 19

B – girls 5 20

Z – students 4 13

Team spirit K – boys 1 17

B – girls 1 20

Z- students 1 9

Creativity K – boys 2 18

B – girls 1 19

Z – students 4 15

Inner harmony K – boys 1 12

B – girls 12

Z – students 8

Logical thinking K – boys 1 21

B – girls 3 21

Z – students 3 17

Reliability K – boys 5 20

B – girls 4 22

Z – students 2 14

Huge working capacity K – boys 3 19

B – girls 1 19

Z – students 12

Openness K – boys 1 15

B – girls 18

Z – students 2 10

Accuracy K – boys 22

B – girls 5 20

Z – students 1 15

Flexibility K – boys 1 21

B – girls 2 18

Z – students 12

Professional background K – boys 14 12

B – girls 16 10

Z – students 17 3

Computer skills K – boys 1 10

B – girls 17

Z – students 2 12

Diligence K – boys 19

B – girls 1 15

Z – students 12

Manager skills K – boys 17 8

B – girls 14 12

Z – students 8 11

Not so Total


K – boys 26

B – girls 2 26

Z – students 2 20

K – boys 26

B – girls 2 26

Z – students 1 20

K – boys 12 26

B – girls 19 26

Z – students 4 20

K – boys 13 26

B – girls 18 26

Z – students 5 20

K – boys 10 26

B – girls 7 26

Z – students 11 20

K – boys 1 26

B – girls 3 26

Z – students 2 20

K – boys 8 26

B – girls 10 26

Z – students 2 20

K – boys 1 26

B – girls 26

Z – students 20

K – boys 1 26

B – girls 26

Z – students 20

K – boys 4 26

B – girls 1 26

Z – students 20

K – boys 26

B – girls 26

Z – students 20

K – boys 3 26

B – girls 1 26

Z – students 3 20

K – boys 8 26

B – girls 5 26

Z- students 10 20

K – boys 6 26

B – girls 6 26

Z – students 1 20

K – boys 13 26

B – girls 14 26

Z – students 12 20

K – boys 4 26

B – girls 2 26

Z – students 20

K – boys 1 26

B – girls 26

Z – students 4 20

K – boys 4 26

B – girls 6 26

Z – students 8 20

K – boys 10 26

B – girls 8 26

Z – students 8 20

K – boys 4 26

B – girls I 26

Z – students 4 20

K – boys 4 26

B – girls 6 26

Z – students 8 20

K – boys 26

B – girls 26

Z – students 20

K – boys 15 26

B – girls 9 26

Z – students 6 20

K – boys 7 26

B – girls 10 26

Z – students 8 20

K – boys 1 26

B – girls 26

Z – students 1 20

K: Kossuth Lajos Military College (since 1996: Zrinyi Miklos National Defence University, Faculty of Military Science

B: Bolyai Janos Military Technical College

Z: Zrinyi Miklos National Defence University

I would like to call attention to the fact that differences in the evaluation are age related. In the younger age group, those of similar age but different sexes seem closer. The young student groups (those without military experience) mostly choose such “traditional” officer values as the able, determined, and work conscious leader, while the more experienced officer group gave more credit to peace of mind, a solid family background, and a solid material background.

A small but interesting difference between the evaluations of the younger male-female group was that the women valued confidence higher than the men did; it could be that this is traditionally a masculine characteristic. (Perhaps this is less characteristic of our sex?!)

Another piece of research started this year and is still in process. It is a study of the conditions of the grown number of female junior officers in the Hungarian Armed Forces, their career conditions and work motivations, done in the same way as in earlier years.

This year I have done research on 125 female junior officers. Out of these I interviewed 12 personally about their conditions, problems, the personal reasons for becoming junior officers. Apart from the above-mentioned group, I interviewed six personnel officers working in group-forces, with more than five female junior officers in their force/group. The data were produced from research on 35 women 18 to 22 years of age presently in junior officer courses, 46 junior officers promoted before 1996 with at least 8 years of service, and 44 junior officers promoted after 1996. Out of the latter group so far only twelve had taken part in military training.

The sample cannot be taken as representative. Nonetheless, the huge amount of answers and their comparatively small scattering, as well as the content of the interview, substantiate that the numerical data mirror those conditional features and problems that influence the work motivation and work adaptation of female junior officers.

Without the complete use of the data I would like to demonstrate the coherent features of the life and work conditions of female junior officers. The data are gained from an anonymous questionnaire with 37 questions. First I will present a few results: To the question “Have you ever thought about leaving the military? 30 percent (37 persons) answered yes. Those who answered yes justified their answer firstly with the loss of confidence in the promises, fairness of the superiors, and the disappointment in the fulfillment and content of the task. On the nine point question: “Are the items listed below more favorable or less favorable than in civilian institutions?” The participants considered the protection of interests as less favorable (15 percent favorable 30 percent less favorable). Working conditions were rated favorably by 48 percent, while 20 percent found them less favorable. Holiday opportunities were considered more favorable (60 percent favorable 10 percent less favorable). Social welfare provisions were considered by the majority (60 percent) as favorable and only (10 percent) as less favorable. The answers to the possibility of cultivation (intellectually) were again divided, with 25 percent favorable, 25 percent less favorable; these results clearly depend on the peculiarities of their place of residence or garrison. In the question of the length of working hours only 10 percent (12 persons) rated them as favorable and 25 percent less favorable. Similar numbers were reached in the question on leisure time (10 percent favorable, 30 percent less favorable); this result is understandable since the two are cognate.

And finally to the ninth point, regarding personal, work place relationships, very cautious answers were given: 55 percent said they did not know or preferred not to give straightforward answers, 30 percent choose favorable, and 15 percent less favorable. The 55 percent are probably composed of those for whom the military is the only (or future) place of work, and their families mainly work in the military as well (and thus they have no basis for comparison with civil institutions).

To the six-factor question “How much do the following facts hinder the fulfillment of your profession?” the following answers were given:

75 percent did not considered age as a hindering factor; 10 percent did. Interestingly, this 10 percent was not from the mature/older group but those under 30. (Perhaps young female soldiers consider a more mature age more favorable?) Family status (married, single) was considered a hindering factor by 35 percent and not by 40 percent. (This information is important because in most cases the husbands of married junior officers work in the professional force, so perhaps the simple answer covers a more complicated problem.) Motherhood 40 percent considered a hindering factor, 15 percent not. This result mirrors an even larger difference if we consider that out of 125 female soldiers 78 indicated (in another question) having at least one or more children. To the question “The fact that you are a woman …” only 15 percent answered that they saw it as a hindrance; 75 percent answered with a determined no.

Here I would like to note that none of the persons interviewed considered sex or family status a hindering factor. In the case motherhood, all consider the fact that the military institutional system does not normally show a positive attitude in connection with child care a hindering factor. They regard child care as a civil right and thus should be solved in that context. They are clear about the problem and cognitively understand but emotionally show a less accepting attitude.

The last two factors, the working conditions and professional duty relationships were considered negative hindrances by the majority, i.e. 60-65 percent did not find them a hindering factors as against only 10-15 percent who did. Adding up the above stated six points, it seems that among the hindering factors only the duties connected with family status (i.e. firstly motherhood and secondly maternal status) apply. There is hardly any difference between the number of persons that gave answers (altogether six persons) to the two factors. However the deviation between the negative answers is 25 percent

And finally I will present a table that shows motivations of those questioned in connection with their work (the performance of duty). The questions appear twice in the questionnaire; the first line of questions refers to “How important is … to you?” The second instance asks the same questions but in a different form i.e. “How satisfied are you with …?” The subjects were required to place their answers in a scale of 1-9, depending on how important each issue was and how satisfied they were on it.

Table 2 contains the average indications of importance or satisfaction in factors connected to work motivation (M) and work demands (D). From the numerical data I would like to emphasize that the respondents successively found it important that the work they do should be important and that it should be well organized; they are less than satisfied on those factors. In connection with work demands, they stressed the importance of being able to have confidence in their superiors and the fact that their opinions and suggestions

should be taken into consideration; they were less satisfied on the rest of the factors.

Table 2. Work-related Values (rated on a scale from 1 to 9)

How important is the presence of the following in your work

How satisfied are you about it?

Important Satisfied

Possibility for independence (M) 7.38 5.44

Possibility for initiative (M) 6.85 5.23

Possibility for self-education, 7.95 4.41

learning (M)

How important is the following in connection to your work?

Important Satisfied

Organization (D) 8.02 4.11

Your personal effort (M) 7.52 4.7

The importance of your work D 8.02 4.7

How important is your relationship towards your superiors?

Important Satisfied

To have confidence in superiors (D) 8.23 5.32

Allow you to work independently (D) 7.82 4.5

Take your opinions and suggestions

into consideration (D) 7.97 4.59

Guarantee the fair division of duties (D) 7.79 3.9

How important are the following in connection to your profession?

Important Satisfied

The chance of promotion (M) 7.79 5.29

The chance of promotion to a higher 8.08 5.02

rank (M)

Professional appreciation (M) 7.67 5.24

Harmony in your work and personal life (M) 8.35 5.5

M: Factors related to motivation

D: Factors related to the demands of work

In connection with professional advancement, it seems that in the case of women, professional acknowledgment and the chance of promotion are more important than getting to a higher rank. This is most likely in connection with the fact that a large number of the women became professional soldiers without any formal military training.

And finally, I would like to call the attention of our respected male leaders to the fact that the women in this survey (and the overwhelming majority of those not questioned), who consciously chose their profession, try conscientiously to fulfill the requirements of the professional force.

Since the military profession still remains a “manly” profession, leaders’ decision making should include time to harmonize the motherly and professional factors of women soldiers, although in the evaluation of duties only the amount and quality of achievement should be considered and neither positive nor negative distinction should be made to toughen the socialization of the increasing number of female soldiers.

Now, let me call your attention to a study by a young woman military school student whose research is dedicated to the mapping of the psychological characteristics of future military officers, including female officers. Allow me to introduce Alexandra Toth, a fourth-year student from the Air Force Academy Szolnok.

COPYRIGHT 1999 Minerva Center, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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