These 4 Women Are The Defense Ministers of Norway, Sweden, Germany & The Netherlands


You’d be forgiven if you looked at this picture of these four women and “defense ministers from European countries” was the last option (if any) that came to mind when picking their careers. But that’s precisely what makes this image all the more important.

Each of these four women is the defense minister from a country in Europe. From left to right, Ine Eriksen Soreide from Norway, Karin Enstrom from Sweden, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert  from The Netherlands, and Ursula von der Leyen from Germany. This picture was taken during the Munich Summit in early February, where politicians from around the world had gathered for an annual security conference. It was taken by another defense minister, Pieter De Crem form Belgium, spotted the four women together and took a photo.

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert tweeted the image, which was then retweeted by Sweden’s foreign minister, Carl Bildt who used the caption “true power girls”, which some claimed was condescending. In a statement to the Guardian, Jeanine talked about the significance of this image.


“[Dutch politician] Neelie Kroes once said to me that old boys’ networks are the oldest form of cartels we have in Europe. She was right, but things are changing, and women can do similar things now,” she said.

Their positions, as well as this image, is getting a lot of people talking about the changing face of leadership, and what it means to have a woman as a defense minister. While Karin from Sweden is the 3rd female defense minister to hold the position, and Ine from Norway is the 5th from her country, Ursula and Jeanine are the first women to crack the glass ceiling in Germany and The Netherlands respectively.

Jeanine previously spent time as a politician in the European parliament in 2012 and has been very outspoken against the criticism toward female politicians or leaders. Ine, 37, is the youngest of the four and has been calling a “rising star” in Norwegian politics, which she began at the age of 29 in the education committee.


“It doesn’t matter if you have a willy or not…I don’t think the military officers that we work with see us any differently than if we were men. And if they do, they don’t show it. But there is a public debate about women taking more influential political roles, and that’s healthy,” she said.

Karin is the only one of the four women who actually has experience in the armed forces. She was a captain in the Swedish Marines, and her brother was also in the military and served in Afghanistan. Ursula von de Leyen is arguably the most well-known in the group, as she works closely with the woman considered one the most powerful people in the world, German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Ursula is a 55 year old doctor with seven children, who is also a big supporter of parental leave during her time in the family and labour ministry. She became the defense minister in September 2015 and is said to be the next obvious successor to Chancellor Merkel.


These women are part of a growing trend of female politicians who are rising up to positions of leadership around the world in order to balance the power. Countries such as Croatia, Bangladesh, South Korea, Nepal, Liberia, Burma and many more are electing female heads of state. In Canada, new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ensured half his cabinet were women, and that many different ethnicities and abilities were represented. When asked in a press conference why he chose to do this last year, his answer was simple: “Because it’s 2015”.

With the US military opening up all combat roles for women, and countries like the UK and Australia following suit, the message is that women are just as passionate and determined to defend their country as men. This is no longer a gender specific job.

Now that it’s 2016, the more visibility we see of women in power, the more younger girls will be encouraged to follow in their footsteps. It may have been just a happenstance photo opportunity at the Munich Summit, but the imagery of 4 female defense ministers is far more significant than a retweet.








  1. Mohammad Khalil says:

    Goodbye Europe it was nice knowing you

  2. “True Power Girls” Hennis-Plasschaerts only connection with defense is that she has a basic secretary training and ‘it was time to put a woman on that post’
    Her only achievement: complete demoralization of the army, shortage of bullets (like in Germany), more generals with personal drivers than there are deployable army vehicles and soldiers that have to shout ‘beng-beng’ during practice as we dont have bullets. The tanks have been sold off en we poored billions in a plane that hasnt been delivered, is delayed and delayed and probably will be ancient when it is there.
    In Syria we just ‘fly along’ as cheerleaders to the americans coz there isnt enough training to throw bombs.

    utter utter failure

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