Protecting those who protect us: Women in the Armed Forces from Recruitment to Civilian Life Contents


1.Since late 2018, women have been able to apply for all roles in the Armed Forces, including ground close combat roles.2 Because of this change—and because there were gaps in our understanding of the needs of female Service personnel and veterans—we launched a Sub-Committee inquiry into Women in the Armed Forces in December 2020.

Our inquiry

2.Our inquiry explores the situation of and challenges facing women in the Armed Forces today (both Regulars and Reserves), from recruitment through in-Service experiences through to transition.

3.This inquiry is a first-ever for the Defence Committee and, we believe, ground-breaking for its in-depth consideration of these issues.3 It represents one of the largest dedicated consultations of female Service personnel and female veterans in the UK. We heard from around 9% of all female personnel serving as Regulars.4 Currently serving personnel would not normally be able to give evidence to an inquiry like this, so we thank the Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, for permitting them to do so.

4.We took special steps to allow female Service personnel to participate in the inquiry more easily. For two weeks in December 2020, we ran an anonymous survey, in which 4,106 female Service personnel and female veterans participated (1,637 female Service personnel and 2,469 veterans) (see Annex 1). Additionally, we ran a private focus group with 11 female Service personnel in April 2021 and provided ways for female Service personnel to send written evidence without making their identities public.5 We thank all Service personnel and veterans who took part for their contribution and their service.

5.We accepted 75 pieces of written evidence. We also took oral evidence from 11 witnesses, including veterans, charities, families federations and the Ministry of Defence. As discussed later, some witnesses spoke on behalf of several servicewomen and female veterans with whom they have contact.

6.In this report, we examine:

The inquiry focuses on the Armed Forces and does not consider challenges facing women in the MOD’s civilian cohort or the Defence sector generally.6

2 British Army, All British Armed Forces roles now open to women (25 October 2018)

3 On wider research gaps, see, for example, Royal British Legion (WAF0064) para 1.2; Paula Edwards, Q15

4 1,421 female Service personnel who took part in the survey (December 2020) were in the Regulars. As of 1 October 2020, there were 16,110 female Service personnel in the UK Regular Forces.

5 Specifically, we allowed confidential submissions (which we see but do not publish) and the anonymous publication of written evidence. Some personnel may have contributed via more than one channel.

6 We note women in the wider Defence sector may be affected by similar challenges to female Service personnel, as highlighted by Baroness Goldie, Q149

Published: 25 July 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement