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Call for Evidence

Women in the Armed Forces: From Recruitment to Civilian Life

Please Note: The Committee has formally resolved that it will accept all requests for evidence to the inquiry into Women in the Armed Forces to be anonymous. This means that if you ask for your evidence to be anonymous, it will be.


In 2016, the then Prime Minister David Cameron lifted the ban on women serving in “ground close combat” with changes to be phased in. On 25 October 2018, the then Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced that women could apply for all jobs in the armed forces including frontline infantry, Royal Marines and SAS. The latest figures show that 10.9 per cent of the UK Regular Forces are female (15,900 personnel). In the 12 months to 31 March 2020, the total intake of female personnel into the combined UK Regular Forces and the Future Reserves 2020 stood at 12.6%. This is short of the 2020 target of 15% set by the Minister of State for the Armed Forces.

Challenges remain for female serving personnel and veterans, including:

  • Recruitment and retention of female personnel;
  • Incidences where female serving personnel are the victim of sexual offences
  • Overrepresentation in the complaints system;
  • Female personnel are more likely to make bullying and harassment complaints;
  • Female personnel are more likely to be assessed with a mental health disorder; and
  • Transition to civilian life, where female service leavers have a lower employment rate and a higher economic inactivity rate.

Other areas of interest that the Committee are keen to cover within the scope of the inquiry include issues around pensions, terms and conditions of employment, housing and general wellbeing.

The Government has published a number of policy documents and pledges since the increased role of women in the armed forces and veteran community such as: The Armed Forces (Flexible Working) Act (2018), No defence for abuse: Domestic abuse strategy 2018-2023 (2018), Defence diversity and inclusion strategy 2018 to 2030 (2018), Wigston Review into inappropriate behaviours (2019), the Women in defence charter (2020) and the UK armed forces families strategy 2016-2020, which is due for review this year.

The Committee will look at the experience of female service personnel from recruitment to transition and consider whether there are unique challenges that are not adequately addressed by the current policies and services.

Terms of reference

  • Do female service personnel face unique and/or additional challenges in the armed forces?
    • What about female BAME personnel?
    • Are the Government and MoD doing enough to address these challenges? What more could be done? How effective are their strategies/initiatives?
    • What effect has the introduction of the Armed Forces (Flexible Working) Act (2010) had?
    • Do female reservists face unique and/or additional challenges in the armed forces? Are they similar to those faced by regular female service personnel?
  • Why do female service personnel choose to leave the armed forces? Are the reasons different to why men leave the armed forces?
  • How easy is it in practice for female service personnel to complain? What are the issues encouraging or hindering female personnel from complaining?
  • Do female service personnel face unique and/or additional challenges during transition to civilian life?
    • What can Government, the MoD and industry do to address these?
  • What are the issues faced by women veterans once they have left the services?
  • Are the needs of female veterans currently met by the available veteran services?

The deadline for submitting written evidence has been extended to 28th February 2021.

If you require assistance on any of the issues raised in this inquiry, please visit:

This call for written evidence has now closed.

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