Gender and the Security Sector Lab

In the Gender and the Security Sector Lab, we take an interdisciplinary social scientific approach to studying the role of gender in the security forces, particularly on outcomes related to security force personnel’s attitudes and behavior about the use of force, abuse of authority, and conflict resolution/de-escalation. In particular, w ask the following questions:

  • How does gender shape the attitudes and behavior of security force personnel?
  • Under what conditions can women meaningfully participate in the security forces?
  • How does security force personnels’ participation in peacekeeping affect their perceptions and behavior upon return?
  • Can gender prime security force personnel to de-escalate from using violence?

We answer these questions using a variety of methods including large-scale surveys of security force personnel around the world, survey experiments embedded in the surveys, and elite interviews with security force decision makers. Our surveys will generate the largest dataset of security force personnel in the world.

Our research output over the next several years includes, but is not limited to:

  • Who is Under the Blue Beret?  This book manuscript will aggregate the data collected across the  different countries to portray the picture of a “typical” peacekeeper. It would assess who gets selected and who does not, and it would assess the implications of those decisions.
  • The Commando Effect: The Impact of Gender on Misconduct among Security Force Personnel using Experimental Survey Evidence: This paper explores whether toxic masculine beliefs, rigid views about gender roles, and/or a masculinity prime affect personnel’s attitudes toward abusive behavior.
  • Bringing Peace Home: Peace Operations as a Socializing Factor for Restraint: This paper will seek to explore whether the experience of peacekeeping makes personnel more likely to show restraint in their work when they return to their home institutions compared to their colleagues who have not deployed. And, it will assess whether people’s views about gender change as a result of deployment.  Finally, it will assess whether views about civilian authority change as a result of deployment.
  • Lock up your daughters! Experimentally testing the gendered protection norm: The gendered protection norm is the phenomenon referring to the stereotypical belief – explicit or implicit – that men are the natural protectors of women and children, and that women and children should not be put in harms way. Using a conjoint experiment, this paper will explore the prevalence of the gendered protection norm in the security forces.

Policy Impact

The Gender and Security Sector Lab produced the Measuring Opportunities for Women in Peace Operations (MOWIP) Methodology in 2020. This methodology provides countries all over the world a tool to be able to identify and measure the opportunities and barriers to women’s meaningful participation. The Lab will continue to assist countries that choose to undergo the MOWIP process.

Presentation to the Zambia Police Service about the results of the MOWIP

Current Lab Members

Dr. Laura Huber (Post-Doc 2019-2020)

Dr. Huber will be starting as an Assistant Professor at the University of Mississippi in January 2021. Her research interests include security sector reform, conflict, gender, peacekeeping, and political violence. Her work primarily examines how gender norms influence the character of political violence, the impact of conflict and international intervention of women’s rights, and gender reform in the security sector. She received her Ph.D in Political Science from Emory University in August 2019.

Undergraduate Research Opportunities

If you are a Cornell undergraduate who is interested in the work described on the research page, I encourage you to email me at

Undergraduates usually get involved by taking the Gender and Security seminar and/or by becoming a research assistant. Research assistants typically assist in coding participant responses and (if interested) may learn how to analyze data.

The lab is generously funded by the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance.

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