Members of Irish Defence Forces to undergo mandatory gender and unconscious bias training

The new mandatory workshop will include unconscious bias training related to gender and race.

Members of Irish Defence Forces shake hands in uniform.
Image: Twitter @irishmissionun

Members of the Irish Defence Forces will soon undergo training related to gender, diversity, and unconscious bias.

The decision to prioritise this training comes after a report published in February 2022 indicated that there is wide concern about the pervasive masculine culture within the Defence Forces and members have “a limited appreciation of diversity of all kinds”.

On its website, the Defence Forces says it is, “…an inclusive organisation and encourages participation of women at all levels,” and further states that women are strongly encouraged to join to help build a more effective military force.

However, the aforementioned report found that there is a reluctance among active women and minority members to come forward with concerns and share their experiences since there is not an adequate process in place for reviewing these complaints.

To address this problem and create a culture where minority members are better heard, a recommendation was made to provide unconscious bias training as a new mandatory practice.

The curriculum will be taught through a combination of in-person training and online learning modules. The material will focus on real-life scenarios that members may encounter during their work, and the content will be tailored to include topics most relevant to the organisation.

A tender notice has been posted for an external consultant to apply to lead the training. Within the notice, Defence Forces explained that they are “striving to better represent the society they are committed to serve, as Ireland’s population becomes increasingly diverse”.

The selected consultant will facilitate the training of 8,000 members across all ranks of the Irish military, and the training will be conducted annually for all Defence Forces strategic and operational leaders as well as certain office holders.

The training is expected to begin later this year after the new tender is hired and the customised content is developed.

Unconscious bias workshops are regularly facilitated across government departments and other workplaces to help educate staff about their own biases so they can avoid making unfair assumptions based on a colleague’s gender, race, or sexuality.

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