Women

Defence Committee To Examine Military Experiences Of Female Personnel

One of the aims of the inquiry is to offer a platform for serving personnel to talk openly about the challenges they have faced.

An inquiry has been launched to examine the experiences of women serving in the British Armed Forces.

It is aimed at exploring what it is like to be female in the military, from the recruitment stage to until careers finish.

The Defence Select Committee has launched the study, which is also setting out to consider whether policies and military structures address the challenges women face, as well as offering a platform for serving personnel to talk openly about them for the first time.

'Women in the Armed Forces: From Recruitment to Civilian Life' is being led by Sarah Atherton MP, who is also a British Army veteran.

The intention is for it to become a sub-committee.

Ms Atherton told Forces News that the inquiry is in response to the "disproportionate amount of women going through the complaints system".

"For the fourth year on the run, 20% of all complaints are by women and that's very high given that the total strength of women is only 12%," she said.

"A majority of those are around bullying, harassment and discrimination."

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has lifted the usual restrictions for the inquiry, allowing female service personnel to participate.

"It shows that both minister Johnny Mercer, who’s really supportive about me taking this forward, and the Secretary of State, Ben Wallace, they do understand that there’s a problem," Ms Atherton added.

A female handler and her Military Working Dog take part in a live fire exercise on the Sennelager Ranges in Germany
This year, the British Army and Royal Navy were named in 'The Times Top 50 Employers for Women 2020' list (Picture: MOD).

"In lifting that ‘gagging order’ they’re showing a commitment to starting to address some of the concerns we have."

The committee will also look at why women choose to leave the Armed Forces, and whether there are unique challenges not adequately addressed by the current policies and services.

Other areas of interest include issues around pensions, terms and conditions of employment, housing and general wellbeing.

Ms Atherton said: "We need to understand the scale, nature and root of the challenges that female personnel face.

"Only then can we begin to address the incidence in which the services have failed female serving personnel and identify the solutions. 

“My hope is that this inquiry will provide servicewomen and veterans, who have too often struggled to get their voices heard, with a platform to discuss their experiences frankly, freely and without fear of repercussions," she added.

The committee is asking for initial written evidence to be submitted through its web portal by midnight on 31 January 2021.  

They recommend that all submitters familiarise themselves with the guidance on giving evidence to a Select Committee of the House of Commons which outlines particulars of word count, format, document size, and content restrictions.