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

3Thriving and progressing in the Forces

Since I joined the army homosexuality has been decriminalised, women who previously had been discharged for pregnancy were recognised as having been wronged, […] and women are now allowed on the front line. This has turned centuries of tradition on its head and the ripple effects are still there […] Things are changing at the policy level, but it still is not the norm in units.

—Female veteran survey respondent, who left the Forces in 2018

Biases and change within the Forces

27.A total of 4,106 female Service personnel and female veterans responded to our survey. Over half (2,157, ~53%) said that they had personally been treated differently to other Armed Forces personnel. This was overwhelmingly because of their gender (see chart below).

Reasons given by those who reported experiencing different treatment to other armed forces personnel (multiple answers possible)

Base: 2,128 of the respondents who said they had experienced different treatment and provided the reason[s] why. Not all who experienced different treatment provided the reason why.

28.Nearly 62% (2,527 respondents) said they had experienced some form of bullying, harassment and/or discrimination while serving (discussed in paragraph 38). 3450 (~84%) reported that female personnel face additional challenges in the Forces.55 Yet, despite this, most respondents (3457, ~84%) said their overall experience of working in the Armed Forces was good or very good. Nearly 9 out of 10 (3,607) would recommend a career in the Forces to other women.56

29.The MOD,57 NGOs,58 and Service personnel and veterans59 praised gradual cultural changes in the Forces, particularly in the last few years. However, the vast majority of contributors also believe there are still unique and additional challenges affecting military women. Contributors raised general concerns about how inclusive the culture is,60 identified specific biases that they believed affect women’s experiences of serving,61 and/or argued that change had not been sufficient or fast enough.62 One servicewoman told us “as a woman you have to put up with a lot […] you learn just to ignore it”.63 Contributors highlighted the cumulative effect of biases and experiences for an individual’s sense of belonging,64 with one servicewoman describing simply being “worn down”.

30.Professor Anthony King, Chair of War Studies at Warwick University, wrote in April 2020 that women in the military are expected to be ‘honorary blokes’.65 Dr Sophy Antrobus and Hannah West, academics and veterans, recounted experiences that did not seem strange to them when serving, but which looked ‘Deeply Odd’ afterwards.66 Christina Dodds, a veteran and academic at Northumbria University, said it was only after leaving the Forces that she understood how she had sometimes been “part of the problem”.67 The MOD’s Lived Experience research in 2019 called for a “genuinely inclusive environment” rather than simply expecting personnel to “fit in”.68

31.The MOD and military leaders accept that aspects of culture in the Armed Forces can exclude or put off women. In July 2020, the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Carter judged that there is still a “laddish” culture.69 Johnny Mercer, former Minister for Defence People and Veterans, told us some servicewomen and LGBT personnel “want to get away from it as fast as they can”.70 The MOD believes there is a “long way to go” before the organisation is “truly diverse and inclusive”.71 The MOD’s commissioned ‘Lived experience’ research found that a “white male prototype, often characterised by alpha male traits” is seen as pervasive and can undermine inclusion for women, minority ethnic personnel and white men who do not conform to this norm.72

32.The MOD noted there is evidence that being female and from a minority ethnic background can lead to more negative experiences of serving.73 Many organisations warned of a gap in data and evidence on the situation of female minority ethnic personnel specifically, believing that they can face particular forms of discrimination.74 There is also limited data on LGBT servicewomen.75

33.The MOD agreed a strategy for Diversity and Inclusion in 2018, which makes commitments to improve the experiences of Defence People.76 A new Directorate for Diversity and Inclusion was also created in 2019–2020,77 with “significant investment”78 in summer 2020. Since 2019, there appear to be more servicewomen joining the Forces each year than there are leaving (the reverse was true from 2012 to 2019).79

34.Within the military culture of the Armed Forces and the MOD, it is still a man’s world. Although many servicewomen are able to cope with this, we do not think they should have to. If the MOD is serious about making the Forces more representative of UK society, it needs to be proactive in making more space for under-represented groups, including servicewomen, and reforming the prevailing culture. The investment that it made to its Diversity and Inclusion team may help, although it is too soon to assess whether this is having the desired effects.

35.The rest of Chapter 3 considers examples of unique/additional challenges affecting female Service personnel. This is an overview of points most commonly raised by contributors.80 Due to the scope and volume of evidence we received on how the MOD and Single Services handle ‘unacceptable behaviours’ affecting servicewomen, Chapter 4 considers the systems in place to respond after unacceptable behaviours—including criminal offences—have occurred.

‘Unacceptable behaviours’ in the Forces

The prevalence and types of behaviours

36.In 2019, unacceptable behaviours81 in the Armed Forces were found to be at an “unacceptable level”.82 This “spectrum” of behaviours encompasses

conduct that is unlawful to that which is inconsistent with Defence core values. It includes all criminal and disciplinary behaviour, for example sexual and violent offences, as well as bullying, harassment, discrimination (BHD).83

37.Continuous Attitudes Surveys are one of the most reliable sources of data on the views and experiences of Service personnel.84 In the latest Armed Forces Continuous Attitudes Survey (AFCAS) (2021)—weighted to be representative—over one in ten (11%) of trained UK Regular Armed Forces personnel said they had experienced bullying, discrimination or harassment (BHD) in the last 12 months.85 This figure is largely unchanged since 2018. The latest available Reserves Continuous Attitudes Survey (RESCAS) (2020) similarly found that one in ten (10%) reservists had been subject to bullying, harassment or discrimination in the last 12 months.86

38.As presented earlier, of the 4,106 female Service personnel and veterans who completed our anonymous survey, over half (2,527; 62% of all respondents) said they had experienced some form of bullying, harassment and/or discrimination while serving. Most commonly, individuals said it was based on their gender, but sexuality, race, religion and ‘other’ characteristics also motivated these behaviours in some cases. Considering only respondents who were still serving (1,637), 954 individuals reported experiences of BHD (58%).87 Considering all serving and veteran respondents, most (2,222, 54%) also said they had witnessed bullying, harassment or discrimination of other female personnel. It is not possible to distinguish between respondents who had these experiences once versus multiple times, nor is it possible to judge at what stage in their career the incident[s] occurred.

39.Although the victims (and perpetrators) of unacceptable behaviours may be of both genders, the Ministry of Defence and the Service Complaints Ombudsman’s statistical evidence suggests that such behaviours disproportionately affect servicewomen (as well as minority ethnic personnel88):

40.As well as BHD generally, servicewomen also appear more at risk of experiencing specifically sexualised behaviours:

41.Some evidence suggests that the methodology of the MOD statistics may under-count the actual level of sexual harassment and offending in the Forces.97 Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Diane Allen said in March 2021 that it was time for the military to have its own #MeToo movement.98 Ahmed Al-Nahhas, Partner and Head of Military Claims at Bolt Burdon Kemp, told us the MOD has only accepted the problem of sexual harassment “grudgingly”.99

42.There is evidence that targeted sexualised behaviour is more likely to affect personnel in the junior ranks.100 In relation to male victims of sexual offences, the solicitors Bolt Burdon Kemp noted that

Such cases are less common, in our experience, but no less disturbing.101

43.The Child Rights International Network argued that girls (16- and 17-year-olds) are more vulnerable to sexual harassment and assault in the military and that the risks for minors generally require “specific consideration”.102 On 29 March 2021, the Government released data showing that 16 allegations of sexual assault were reported to the Service Police forces by female Armed Forces personnel aged under 18 in the period from 1 January 2015 to 24 February 2021.103

44.Many female Service personnel and veterans provided evidence to our inquiry in which they shared accounts of the unacceptable behaviours that they had experienced personally or witnessed.104 Indirectly, we also heard stories from more than 150 female Service personnel within the combined evidence of Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Diane Allen, the solicitors Bolt Burdon Kemp, and the campaigning organisations, the Centre for Military Justice and Justice4Troops.105 We are not able to investigate individual cases. Examples of the stories are given in the box below. These encompass a range of ‘unacceptable behaviours’ that are criminal or otherwise unacceptable. Although perpetrators were mostly male, some were other servicewomen.

Box 1: Stories of servicewomen (serving and veterans) of unacceptable behaviours they experienced, shared with our Committee directly and indirectly (non-exhaustive)

  • Sexual assault and/or rape, including being drugged. Some contributors had experienced more than one of these offences during their careers
  • Rape by multiple individuals (gang rape)
  • Assault by senior officers or instructors
  • Repeated sexual advances and unwanted attention from seniors
  • Bullying, harassment or discrimination undertaken by seniors
  • Sexual exploitation of under-18s
  • Attempts (sometimes successful) by other personnel to get into their accommodation at night
  • The presence of individuals in particular units, openly known to target junior ranks
  • Unwelcome attention, especially at social events but also during the working day106
  • Ejaculation into their pocket
  • Particular units where sexual harassment of women is openly tolerated
  • Bullying for refusing sexual advances
  • Witnessing friends being attacked by groups of men but being too afraid to report it
  • Sex for promotion or advancement
  • ‘Trophies’ or contests to ‘bag the women’ on camp or on ships
  • Filming and sharing images, including while in the showers
  • Being groped - particularly at functions
  • On tour incidents–clothing being stolen, ‘excessive banter’, physical attacks.
  • Persistent undermining of performance in front of chain of command
  • Inappropriate sexual comments from other personnel, including in professional contexts (for instance, meetings)
  • Overt hostility towards, and bullying of, women (often first into post)
  • Bullying or downgraded performance assessment if servicewomen made attempts to report unacceptable behaviours
  • Senior officers and other personnel witnessing behaviours but failing to intervene (sometimes referred to as the ‘bystander effect’107) (see chapter 4)
  • Racist and homophobic bullying
  • A sense that sexual harassment is “still rife”108
  • Messes and mess accommodation being viewed as places of danger, with one servicewoman saying that they could be more dangerous for servicewomen than being deployed on overseas operations.

Related experiences

  • Harsher punishment for servicewomen who are believed to have engaged in sexual relations, relative to servicemen109
  • Experiences of unwanted sexual comments that occurred over a sustained period then moved from verbal actions to physical assault
  • Being expected to accept sexist comments because an individual is ‘old school’ (for example, ‘women should not be in the military’)
  • Being encouraged to leave events early and not ‘dress too nicely’ to avoid unwanted attention
  • Fears over saying no due to being seen as frigid

45.The MOD and other witnesses highlighted that leaders are crucial in driving forward cultural change in the Armed Forces.110 They also have a welfare function for those they command. However, stories we heard from female Service personnel reported senior individuals engaging in unacceptable behaviour themselves (including criminal sexual offences), failing to challenge these behaviours (for example, watching without commenting or breaching the confidentiality of those seeking advice) or interfering negatively in how a complaint is handled (see also paragraph 126 for individual examples). This type of behaviour is also reflected in many examples submitted by Lt Col (Retired) Diane Allen.111 In confidential evidence, we also heard language from some senior leaders in the military that appeared to expect women to put up with unacceptable behaviours, including senior women who had personally experienced these behaviours and expected other servicewomen to be tough enough to handle it.

46.In July 2020, the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Carter, told us the Forces would act to change the “leadership culture” because current forms of reporting (annual assessments) do not have “nearly enough emphasis on the sorts of behaviours that we want to encourage”. He added

Too much of the time it is about people being upwardly-looking leaders and not being downwardly-looking leaders. What I am looking for is people being judged on their moral courage and their ability to look after the people that they have the privilege to command and to lead.112

Others have suggested to us that progression in the military is linked to commanding officers having a low number of complaints in their unit, meaning that they have an incentive to protect their unit’s reputation and make complaints ‘go away’ (see paragraphs 122–127 in chapter 4).113 In confidential evidence, some Service personnel expressed the view that commitments to diversity and inclusion are rarely taken seriously in decisions over progression and promotion. Some also indicated it is very difficult to move ‘toxic individuals’ out of the military.

47.Many contributors described the negative health consequences for victims who had experienced bullying, harassment and discrimination (including those who faced sexualised behaviours) (see paragraphs 181–182 for more). Bolt Burdon Kemp were highly critical of how servicewomen it represented had been treated and the loss they represented to the Armed Forces, saying “they are all bright, able, and talented individuals, who chose to serve their country” and the MOD “should be ashamed of how their careers have ended”. They also called it a “huge waste of public investment”.114 Confidential evidence also discussed the damage to unit morale and operational effectiveness as a result of these behaviours. Research by academics at the University of Derby suggested it could undermine workplace performance.115 The former Service Complaints Ombudsman, Nicola Williams, believed it could have a “corrosive effect” on the wider work environment. She noted

As good as banter can be for building team cohesion and esprit de corps, it is often used as a way to bully people […] that leads to that toxic environment. So both men and women can suffer from it, but some cohorts can suffer more than others.116

On 15 July 2019, the Ministry of Defence published its landmark Report on ‘inappropriate behaviours’, led by Air Chief Marshal Wigston. This noted that this behaviour harms the Forces’ reputation for “courage, determination and professionalism”, and that it “almost certainly has an impact” on “attracting, recruiting and retaining” talent in the Armed Forces.117

48.The Wigston Review highlighted factors that can make unacceptable behaviours more likely:

tight-knit units that perceive themselves as ‘elite’; masculine cultures with low gender diversity; rank gradients; age gradients; weak or absent controls, especially after extensive operational periods; and alcohol118

It added that military culture and a rigid hierarchy makes it harder for bystanders to intervene and for lower ranks to challenge the actions of senior ranks.119 The Centre for Military Justice commented on the overlap between the “work-space” and “life-space” in the military, particularly on deployments. It noted

Factors which are specific to the military, such as lifestyle (high mobility, shared-living accommodation, ritualised drinking of alcohol), culture (attitudes towards women, hyper-masculinity), and structure and policy (gender-typing of military occupations, top-down hierarchical structures) may in part explain the prevalence of sexual harassment and sexual assault in military populations.120

49.In our survey, some servicewomen and veterans pointed out that the culture in some individual units and cap badges could be more exclusive than others, and the challenges could be the result of the behaviour of individuals. For example

Within the Royal Navy the amount of sexist attitudes, from Officers mainly, is appalling. I have often felt the boys club mentality is still very much a thing of today. […] This is to do more so with the individual than the policies which have been put in place.

50.Around 700 women (serving and veterans) provided comments in our survey that related to the male-dominated culture of the Armed Forces. Some called for more to be done to change ‘mess hall culture’ and sexualised behaviours in the working environment and social settings. They advocated more effective education of male and female personnel about what sexual harassment is and how to deal with it effectively (without focusing on women ‘avoiding’ sexual harassment and assault). They also wanted more action to enable all personnel to speak out if they witnessed derogatory treatment. A few stated that more should be done to ensure that women feel safe, including ensuring that rooms can be locked.

51.There is too much bullying, harassment and discrimination–including criminal behaviours like sexual assault and rape–affecting Service personnel (both male and female), and the MOD’s own statistics leave no room for doubt that female Service personnel suffer disproportionately. We were alarmed and appalled that the Army’s Sexual Harassment survey of 2018 found that 21% of servicewomen had either experienced or witnessed sexual harassment at work in the previous 12 months. Such a figure should have raised major concerns in the Army but appears not to have done so. The stories that we heard are truly shocking and they gravely concern us. They are also disappointing given the MOD’s commitment to ending unacceptable behaviours and the rollout of initiatives like bystander training (see paragraph 55). In particular, we are disturbed by repeated examples of senior ranks failing those they command, by not responding appropriately or even engaging in these behaviours themselves. Some of the language we heard from senior leaders also concerned us, as it appeared to imply servicewomen wanting to progress need to learn to put up with these behaviours. Let us be clear: this behaviour is harming the health, careers and operational effectiveness of our Service personnel and has no place in the military. It also damages the reputation of all Service personnel, the majority of whom conduct themselves with integrity and professionalism. The Forces and the MOD must continue to root out these behaviours and must respond better when they occur. We make specific recommendations on this in both chapters 3 and 4 of this report.

Efforts by the MOD and Single Services to reduce these behaviours

52.In July 2019, the MOD’s Report on ‘inappropriate behaviours’, led by Air Chief Marshal Wigston, made 36 recommendations, aimed at preventing such behaviour within the Armed Forces and dealing with it better when it occurs.121 The then Secretary of State for Defence said that the MOD accepted all the recommendations, which included the following:

In addition, the Review made several recommendations to improve the handling of complaints of bullying, harassment and discrimination, which are discussed in chapter 4 (paragraph 136).

53.In December 2020, the MOD published a progress review led by Non-Executive Director Danuta Gray. This found that overall progress on the Wigston Review’s recommendations had been “good”, but that delivery had initially been “slower than desired”, due to factors such as “complexity, resourcing, the requirement for further discovery work and wide engagement”, as well as a temporary pause caused by Covid-19.124 The evidence base for the review’s conclusions is sometimes not provided or difficult to verify.

54.The progress review made a further 13 recommendations—accepted in full by the Defence Secretary—including:

55.The Single Services and MOD have introduced changes since the Wigston Review in 2019 and the progress review in 2020. These include:

In addition, there have been governance changes since 2019, specifically the creation of a ‘Directorate of Diversity and Inclusion’ in the Chief of Defence People’s area in the last year, and the appointment of its Director, Samantha des Forges, in February 2021. She explained that this “expanded” directorate brings together the Diversity and Inclusion Team with the unacceptable behaviours team (responsible for the Wigston and Gray reviews), the service complaints and service justice transformation teams and the defence serious crime capability team.132

56.In confidential evidence, some female Service personnel warned that the Armed Forces are not making enough progress in practice in implementing the Wigston Review recommendations. In our survey, most respondents (2,565) believed that more could be done within the military to overcome bullying, harassment and discrimination. As shown in the chart below, female veterans were more negative in their assessments of the military’s efforts so far.

Chart. Do you feel the military does/did enough to combat bullying, harassment and discrimination?

Source: Our survey of female Service personnel and female veterans. Base numbers: 2,344 for female veterans and 1,610 for serving personnel. 152 respondents, mostly veterans, did not answer this question and are excluded from this chart.

The reasons for the differences in opinion between Service personnel and veterans may reflect change in the Forces’ culture over time, the fact that those who leave may be more likely to have had negative experiences, or other factors. Not all female veterans responding left the Forces a long time ago. More than 500 (i.e. more than one in five respondents) exited after 2010.

57.The Forces already have a wide range of training on Service values and culture, including specialised training for leaders.133 Most female Service personnel in our survey believed that they currently receive sufficient training to identify, report and whistleblow with regards to bullying, harassment and/or discrimination.134 However, several survey respondents warned that diversity and inclusion training will not achieve the desired results if it is a ‘tickbox’ exercise and does not focus on behavioural change in how bullying and harassment is handled. In other confidential evidence, female Service personnel thought that bystander training (and the new helpline) were a step in the right direction, but judged them more suited to the civilian context and lacking relatability to the military environment. It was also suggested in confidential evidence that training made little difference to wider fears of whistleblowing. The Wigston Review in July 2019 noted that mandated D&I and values training sometimes focuses on compliance (rather than behavioural change) and Senior Officer courses are not always well-attended.135 The progress review added that the Covid-19 pandemic had delayed training delivery at the Defence Leadership Centre.136

58.The MOD’s progress review in December 2020 explained that the new bullying, harassment and discrimination helpline is managed by an external provider with “professionally qualified advisers”. The review judged that it would offer “expert advice and support which should foster increased confidence in the reporting system”.137 The review favoured greater promotion of the helpline on the single Services’ public channels. Both the RAF Families Federation138 and individual Service personnel echoed the need for better advertising to improve use, with one survey respondent stating:

The new initiatives such as the harassment helpline and networks are brilliant initiatives - but no one hears anything further. Perhaps adverts of how many people have used the facility / outcomes which came from using it, more people would think to utilise it.

Some female Service personnel told us in confidential evidence that they would not use the helpline because it seemed more suited to the civilian context. One mentioned a previous experience that had convinced her those staffing the helpline were not adequately specialised to understand the complexity of the military situation she was facing. There was a preference expressed for face-to-face contact when trying to explain complex situations. It was also suggested that personnel value the helpline, but it is not enough on its own to fix behavioural problems.

59.The Wigston Review noted that there was no pan-Defence process for assessing the impact of training on command courses for leaders.139 It recommended that Defence “maximise” its use of “immersive values-based training” within leadership courses (recommendation 1.12) and develop a process for measuring the impact of cultures and behaviours training programmes (recommendation 1.14).140 Dr Fenton, a Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Exeter who has researched bystander training, underlined the need to involve experts properly in the design of training courses.141

60.The MOD said the data it uses to judge whether all its interventions are working are the continuous attitudes surveys (which measure overall reported bullying, harassment and discrimination levels) and the sexual harassment surveys.142 The Chief of Defence People told us

Discrimination at work since 2018 has reduced from 15% to 11% and over the same period bullying and harassment from 14% to 10%. It is still too high, but it is trending in the right direction and we will continue to drive those further down.143

The progress review in 2020 said that the ‘Wigston Implementation Project Board’ had agreed metrics to measure progress within Performance and Risk Reviews. The review judged that these “will ultimately give an indication of the collective effect of interventions”.144 However, it concluded that Defence still needed “a more sophisticated approach to understanding the effectiveness of programmes” (recommendation 12).145

61.As discussed in paragraphs 121 and 126, several contributors were deeply critical of how unacceptable behaviours—including criminal offences—are dealt with in the military after they occur, and the capacity of the Service Complaints and Service Justice system to handle these cases effectively. Chapter 4 considers the systems in place to respond to unacceptable behaviours.

62.The work set in motion to reduce unacceptable behaviours by the Wigston Review shows that the MOD acknowledges the problem of unacceptable behaviour. This work is positive. However, progress is slow, and frequently there is a gap between the raft of policy documents in place and actual practice on the ground. We are not yet seeing the significant progress we need.

63.We do not underestimate the extraordinary demands and pressures facing military leaders. They operate in a unique environment; training in the Forces is often for combat and is intended to create a fighting force that is able to kill. Nonetheless, this does not excuse unacceptable behaviour. Given the disturbing examples we heard of some leaders failing those under their command, we are concerned that Leaders’ courses are not always well-attended, have been disrupted by the pandemic and do not have a clear process for assessing impact. Command courses already cover behaviours, ethics, culture and inclusion, but this existing training does not seem always to be working. Training for leaders must be mandatory, with key performance indicators to assess its impact.

64.Adapt performance assessment systems to give greater reward to ‘downwardly-looking’ leaders and to prevent the progression of individuals who are found to have engaged in unacceptable behaviours or to have responded inappropriately.

65.We support the MOD’s efforts to improve the availability of data on sexual harassment specifically, including via AFCAS and an in-depth survey. We note that the tri-service sexual harassment survey will not take place until 2023: two years later than recommended by the Wigston Review. The 2023 Sexual Harassment Survey must proceed without disruption. Henceforth, the MOD should commit to holding in-depth surveys of this kind every year, to get a handle on whether this specific form of unacceptable behaviour is reducing and whether its initiatives are having the desired effect. It is necessary to involve independent experts in the design of these surveys to reduce the risk of under-counting. The surveys should be designed so as to capture the specific problem of sexual harassment affecting minors (under-18s).

66.We have general concerns about how well the MOD and Single Services can measure the reach and impact of new initiatives like the anti-bullying helpline and bystander training. The MoD and the Services must review, on an ongoing basis, the reach, awareness among personnel, and effectiveness of new initiatives to prevent and respond to unacceptable behaviours. These include the anti-bullying helpline and all forms of training being rolled out. In addition to BHD prevalence (AFCAS/RESCAS) and the sexual harassment surveys, there should be initiative-specific data and indicators to measure whether these are working. For example, questions could be added to the AFCAS and RESCAS on whether Service personnel have heard of the initiatives, on whether behaviours have changed a result, and their overall satisfaction with each of them.

67.The MOD must demonstrate that cultural change is a priority by publishing at least every other year an in-depth review of implementation of the Wigston Review recommendations. As the first progress review was published in late 2020, the next review should be released no later than December 2022. For example, we do not believe enough progress has been made yet on Recommendation 2.9.146

Case studies: other challenges affecting female Service personnel

Uniforms and equipment

68.Within all Services, female personnel frequently have to use uniform and equipment designed for men. Servicewomen reported that they have significant concerns over the suitability of these items, particularly uniforms. In our survey, 1,259 currently serving female personnel disagreed that the uniform is appropriate for their needs: more than three-quarters (77%) of all currently serving female personnel who participated.147 The level of concern was high within each Service.148 977 servicewomen (~60% currently serving survey respondents) expressed concerns over their equipment.

69.Approximately 600 respondents to our survey provided further comments on uniform and equipment. Many noted that these had been designed for men and took this as a sign that the culture did not equally value women. Failure to design body armour and combat equipment for women was also widely reported as a safety issue. One servicewomen commented that while she “absolutely” agreed with gender-free fitness testing for ground close combat roles, this was “fundamentally different” to expecting women or any other personnel to be disadvantaged in combat due to a lack of planning and consideration of their equipment. Further examples are in the box below.

Box 2: Quotes from female Service personnel about their uniform and equipment

“Feels like the Army can’t even get some of the basics right, female clothing for example […] I’d be really keen to see the safety data on body armour and vehicle safety and see if the female form was appropriately represented in the design sample sizes.”

“The combat uniform is not designed around the female form and is uncomfortable, poorly fitting and restrictive. Body armour makes no provision for breasts […] a much larger size has to be worn […]. This is both less safe (arm holes leave more unprotected space) and impracticable for manoeuvres.”

“Equipment and clothing designed for men, especially combat equipment […] more thought could be put into designing combat equipment (rucksacks/ webbing / body armour etc) that is a better fit for the female body.”

“Design and provide the correct equipment for female bodies. E.g. smaller body armour plates that aren’t ‘special measure’ and don’t require 6 months to order and deliver when the deployment is short notice […] Provide PCS [Personal Clothing System] uniform & ballistic shorts etc design for a female physique […].”

“Respect women firstly by supplying uniform that fits the female form. […] Also providing white blouses that are not see through. We want to feel proud in the uniform we have to wear, not self-conscious.”

Source: Our survey

70.Concerns raised by servicewomen and others149 included:

71.Salute Her, the gender-specific veterans’ service of the charity Forward Assist, reported that many women it works with reported that ill-fitting body armour “left them vulnerable to serious life threatening injury”.150 The Royal British Legion stated equipment like bergens and webbing—designed for the male form—are normally too long for women “placing extra pressure on the spine and pelvis and causing musco-skeletal injuries”.151 It also cited research from the US context on the injury risk for female Service personnel from ill-fitting equipment.152 Anglia Ruskin University and the Cobseo Female Veterans Cluster also referred to the potentially negative impact of poor-fitting uniform and equipment on women’s long term health outcomes.153

72.The MOD noted there was “evidence of structural discrimination” affecting women, and provided the example of:

unintended consequences such as cutbacks in resources meaning no uniform specifically designed for women.154

It also stated that female Service personnel in the Army report an impression that “historically kit, equipment and Terms and Conditions of Service (TACOS) have been designed around men”.155 It said that the RAF had introduced a change to its hairstyle regulations to “accommodate the different challenges faced” by minority ethnic personnel and added that:

Like the RAF, the Army continue to develop inclusive dress regulations. Equality Analysis for all policies, infrastructure and equipment will ensure all future developments consider women (and other minorities/protected characteristics).156

This evidence on the RAF and the Army gives an example of the Single Services’ differing dress regulations and standards. The MOD states that Navy servicewomen have higher satisfaction with equipment than servicemen, although does not provide the levels of satisfaction.157

73.The MOD informed us of ongoing work to update the uniforms and equipment of female Service personnel. For example:

The Chief of Defence People stated it was “absolutely not” acceptable for ill-fitting items to compromise women’s safety and “we have to catch up”.166

74.We support the MOD’s recent steps to provide more appropriate uniform and equipment to female Service personnel, including re-designing air crew equipment and trialling better-fitting body armour. However, women have been able to serve in all parts of the military since late 2018, and at least 7 out of 10 roles in each Service have been open for years longer (see paragraph 8). We find it extraordinary that uniforms and equipment are still a problem across all Services. Thousands of female Service personnel, already facing the dangers of military duty, are at greater risk of harm due to basic failures in their uniform and equipment, which can have consequences for their combat effectiveness and health. Fixing these problems is one of the simplest ways that the Forces can demonstrate they value servicewomen.

75.The Department must continue as a priority to trial and fully roll out safer, more appropriate uniform and equipment for female Service personnel, with a view to reaching all servicewomen (in the Regulars and Reserves) by the end of 2022. The Services should confirm that all the items mentioned in our evidence will be covered by the changes underway. The MOD should also provide a timeline for this change in the response to our report. The trials and roll-out should involve continued consultation with female personnel and relevant Service networks. As far as possible, this procurement should use British manufacturers.

76.In joint bases, the variations in single service regulations over dress may cause confusion and difficulty. Consider harmonising standards over dress and etiquette when multiple services are co-located, to avoid perceptions of unfairness.

Health and facilities

Sanitary products

77.Evidence from female Service personnel suggests particular taboos in the military around menstruation and the menopause.167 Around 4 in 10 female Service personnel (636 individuals) who responded to our survey did not think that facilities are appropriate for their needs. Many respondents noted in survey comments and in confidential evidence that they are often unable to access sanitary products and disposal facilities, on bases, deployment missions and in other settings. They often indicated that having greater access to these facilities could have a very positive impact in making women feel more valued and reducing unnecessary stress in their day-to-day activities. We similarly heard from charities and veterans that servicewomen face substantial difficulties in accessing sanitary products in austere environments and were often forced to rely on socks or bits of paper.168 Salute Her, a female-specific veterans’ service, noted that during exercises and operations

women reported a lack of privacy when carrying out bodily functions, the lack of access to sanitary wear resulted in women having to improvise with spare clothing (socks) which led in some cases to long term kidney damage and urinary tract infections.169

78.On 4 March 2021, two days after our Committee took oral evidence on this issue, James Heappey MP, the Armed Forces Minister, stated publicly that tampons and sanitary products would now be provided to female personnel deployed abroad.170 This announcement appeared to have been prompted by our evidence session.171 From Summer 2021, the MOD will offer a box of sanitary supplies in austere environments, on exercise and in Phase 1 training establishments. There will be enough items for around 10 personnel.172

79.The Ministry said that the decision to provide products in this way (as opposed to making these products standard-issue) was based on views in a menstruation survey of Defence People. Here, respondents said that they generally preferred to manage their own menstruation, but there was a need for “backup supplies” when products are “not easily accessible”.173 Free-text comments of the menstruation survey suggested that the supplies should be provided in toilets and washing facilities (like soap or toilet roll) and that

access should be via medics, medical centres, or a discrete supply to avoid potential embarrassment, such as an emergency box […]174

80.The Ministry says that it worked with “colleagues from D&I, Women’s Networks, defence equipment and logistic support” to decide the best form of provision and opted for discreet, small boxes.175 It will continue to collaborate with the chain of command, Women’s Networks and logistics supply chain on making boxes available in the “most appropriate manner”.176 It intends to review uptake of the products in June 2022. The Chief of Defence People told us the supplies are on the back of all troop-carrying vehicles on exercises, and all instructors and cadets “know it exists” and “all they need to do is ask for it”. He added that

uptake and usage has been really low because most women have provided for their needs themselves, but when it is needed it is there, and they told me that it had made a real difference.177

81.We thank the MoD for its decision to offer back-up sanitary products to female Service personnel in austere environments, on exercise and in Phase 1 training establishments, although we wonder what part media coverage of our evidence session played in the timing of the announcement. Given the ‘taboo’ around menstruation, some servicewomen, particularly in junior ranks, may be too embarrassed to request the supplies from a (often male) senior officer. We encourage the MOD to continue its work with the chain of command, Women’s Networks and the supply chain to provide sanitary products in all austere environments, exercises and training establishments, taking clear steps to ensure these are genuinely accessible to all who need them. There should be an alternative point of contact to access these, outside of the chain of command. Awareness of the effect of menstruation on servicewomen should be part of leadership training.

Menopause, pregnancy and other health issues

82.Generally, some servicewomen voiced concerns in written evidence and our survey that the Armed Forces does not adequately consider gender-specific health issues affecting women, for instance biological changes linked to pregnancy and the menopause.178 We heard that it can be very difficult to find a military GP who understands women’s health, and that this can affect servicewomen’s career choices over where to take a posting.179 It has also been suggested that male trainers are not always able to advise women on hygiene in the field and may become embarrassed. There is evidence of some gender differences in the health effects of serving—for instance, men and women may have different health responses to trauma and combat exposure.180 Some contributors suggested that further research is needed into these differences.181

83.Some contributors identified menopause as a discrete area that needs to be better catered for in the military.182 It was suggested that the Defence Medical Services do not appear to have defined policies on peri-menopause/menopause, for instance the permissible ‘supplements’ that Service personnel can take to relieve symptoms, as well as the impact of symptoms on an individual’s Medical Deployment Standards. Specific policies that it was suggested do not sufficiently consider menopause are JSP 560 and JSP 950.183 The co-lead of the MOD’s menopause network believed more work was needed to ensure the Forces adequately consider menopause, noting:

84.Others told us the Navy is considering its policies on menopause and the Army has done work in its Andover headquarters proactively to highlight support that exists for menopause.185 The MOD Director of Diversity and Inclusion said work is ongoing to improve GP services’ understanding of menopause.186

85.As mentioned in paragraph 101, there are initiatives in the RAF to provide support in ante-natal and post-natal fitness for new mothers.187 The RAF Families Federation told us this is not available in all UK units, but “quite a large number” of Physical Training Instructors took up this training.188 The Royal Navy has also launched a (Pre/Peri Natal) mental Fitness programme.189

86.The MOD is updating its women’s health policy in 2021.190 This will aim to “develop policies to better support women in the service”, specifically considering “menopause, breastfeeding, access to sanitary provisions, assisted conception services and post-pregnancy rehabilitation”.191 The Chief of Defence People said he expects findings of the review later this year.192

87.We support the work being undertaken to give better consideration of female-specific health needs within Defence health policies, recognising that the evidence base is still growing in some areas. We especially applaud the work of the RAF and Royal Navy to provide more specialised support on ante-natal and post-natal fitness. The MOD should continue this positive work, particularly when it comes to menopause (which may be less well catered to), and report to us annually on actions taken. The MOD should also consider the accessibility and training of military GPs, to ensure that female Service personnel can access doctors with the right knowledge and understanding to deal with a range of female health needs, regardless of the base location. This will support all Service personnel to access appropriate healthcare.

Supporting those with family responsibilities

88.Service life is demanding and often involves working long hours, away from home and frequently changing post or location. The latest Armed Forces Continuous Attitude Survey (AFCAS) found the top factor influencing decisions to leave the Services (for all personnel) was (still) the impact on family and personal life.193 This was also the most common reason why female veterans reported in our survey that they had left (see paragraph 196), with one saying servicewomen with a family are “regularly made to feel that they are a burden”.

89.The MOD’s ‘Lived experience’ research judges that women, often the primary caregivers, make the greatest career sacrifices to achieve a work-life balance,194 including leaving the Armed Forces altogether. The ‘Living in our Shoes’ review team, led by Andrew Selous MP, found that decisions over whether to stay in the military were “often influenced by the availability, accessibility and the affordability of appropriate childcare”. It added that for Serving mothers without extended family members nearby to support with childcare, “the lack of wrap-around childcare” acted “as a barrier to sustaining a military career”.195 In particular, Reservists with family responsibilities—who have greater flexibility of service—can face additional problems with accessing childcare (due to weekend/evening training) and maternity support (due to being provided on base).196

90.The ‘Living in our Shoes’ report concluded that it is particularly difficult for single Serving mothers, and those in dual-serving households to balance military life with family life.197 56% of married servicewomen are in a service couple, compared to 5% of married servicemen198 and it is most often the woman in a dual-serving couple who gives up her military career to support a family.199

91.One in five female Service personnel who responded to our survey told us they had refused a posting due to consequences for their family.200 Their experiences often reflect limited consultation about important career decisions, with some feeling pressured to deploy against their wishes and others missing out on these opportunities because it was assumed that they would not want to, due to actual or potential family commitments.

92.The Ministry of Defence must put in place a clear Tri-Service policy on foreign deployment for personnel with pre-school aged children, to give serving parents (male and female) more say over their career paths when they have young children and provide them with flexible working options, whilst not disadvantaging their prospects for promotion. There should be an emphasis on easing the situation of dual-serving couples.

93.There was a strong impression in our survey that flexibility at work is already improving (see chart below).

Do/did you have the flexibility at work [in the military] to ensure a balanced family and working life?

Base number: 2,407 veterans and 1,624 Service personnel (75 non-respondents not included in this figure). Veterans commented on their experiences while serving.

94.AFCAS 2021 highlighted that changes to working arrangements linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, including an “increase in personnel working from home”, may have affected “attitudes to working flexibly and work/life balance”.201

95.The MoD’s wraparound childcare pilot scheme started in September 2020 and funds up to 20 hours per week of free before- and after-school childcare for 4 to 11-year-old children of Service personnel assigned to RAF High Wycombe, RAF Halton, Catterick Garrison and Plymouth Naval area.202 In March, the MOD also announced £1.4 billion over the next decade for wraparound childcare.203 Maria Lyle from the RAF Families Federation said the wraparound childcare pilot is “really welcome” and that more than 250 families had taken it up. However, she added that “it is a pilot and we need to see more of it”.204

96.The Ministry of Defence should roll out the wraparound childcare scheme to all bases and to all Services by the end of 2022, following the pilots. In the roll-out, the MOD should work closely with the Department for Education and equivalent in the Devolved Nations, and local authorities.

97.Flexible Service was introduced in February 2018 and allows some military personnel to serve part-time for defined periods or restrict the amount of time they spend away from their home base and their families.205 As part of the Armed Forces Bill, Flexible Service will be extended to Reservists.206 James Swift, Chief of Defence People said that over the last two years, 309 service personnel have taken up flexible service;207

it is not a huge number, but nor am I aware of evidence that people are being denied this and being frustrated by being denied it. The important thing is to make this available208

98.The MOD told us the RAF has so far been most successful in driving the uptake in Flexible Working Arrangements. However, women are overall ten times more likely than men to take Flexible Service.209 In confidential evidence, some servicewomen suggested it can be very hard to have flexible working approved, even if personnel try and get it.

99.The Ministry of Defence should undertake a targeted and measurable initiative to improve the uptake and use of Flexible Service, including by men, and report its progress to us by the end of 2022.

100.The costs and benefits of home working should be assessed, with a view to introducing home working options wherever possible.

101.The RAF and the Navy have introduced parental support programmes to provide guidance to women during maternity and graduated return to work schemes. The RAF now funds pre- and post-natal fitness training and has won a best practice award from the Working Families charity.210 RAF charities have also done work to build and manage childcare facilities.211

102.The MOD told us the Army has “begun to consider the implications” of the Integrated Review’s commitment to more deployments worldwide, but has “currently made no assessment of the impact of longer and more frequent deployments on the retention on servicewomen”.212 The Naval Families Federation has expressed concern that RN personnel already spend a disproportionate amount of time away from home, compared to the other two Services and that this has impacted on retention and career progression for women.213 The Defence Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2018–2030 committed to “rigorous equality analysis” for Defence decisions that affect people.214

103.The Ministry of Defence should carry out the promised equality analysis of longer or more frequent deployments, as set out in the Integrated Review, and publish these by March 2022, a year after publication of the Review. This should consider opportunities as well as risks.

104.Juggling Service life and family life can be hard for all Service personnel, but especially for military women, who are more often the main care-giver for children and part of a dual-serving couple. We welcome improvements to the ‘offer’ for Service families in recent years and the indications that flexibility of Service may be improving. However, we note that the decision over whether to accommodate requests for flexible working sits with the chain of command; key aspects of a serviceperson’s career pivot around this one relationship. It is a priority to enable all Service personnel to access these entitlements (when appropriate) and to normalise their use.

Progressing and moving up

105.Women are in a minority within the military leadership: 5.2% of Senior Officers and 13.9% of Junior Officers in April 2021.215 The highest-ranking women in each Service are Rear Admiral (2*) in the Navy; Major General in the Army (2*) and Air Marshal in the RAF (3*) (see Appendix 1 for ranks216). There are no servicewomen at 4* or above. The share of female Officers is higher in the RAF than in the other Services. For all Services, the proportion of female Officers is higher in the Future Reserves 2020 than the UK Regular Forces.217 The MOD stated that, on the “current trajectory”, improving women’s presence among Senior Officers “will take decades” and that “some assessments forecast over 300 years”.218 However, there have been some notable ‘firsts’ for senior women in the last year.219

106.Female military leaders are less likely to have children than male leaders; 90% of men at OF-5 rank have children, compared to 10% of OF-5 women (Captain RN, Colonel, Group Captain).220 Having dependent children has been identified as an important reason why female Service personnel leave the Armed Forces (see paragraph 196). There can also be particular challenges for the career progression of female Reservists, due to the “sporadic nature” of the role and because annual appraisal reports are banned from mentioning maternity leave.221

107.In our survey and written evidence, female Service personnel reported feeling constantly required to ‘prove themselves’ against a male norm and discussed barriers to their progression.222 These included:

108.Lt Colonel (Retired) Diane Allen suggested that women are adversely affected by a lack of transparency in boarding and promotion systems. She also judged that job descriptions can impose requirements women cannot fulfil. In her view, military women may find that career breaks harm their progression.224

109.In contrast, the MOD stated that its research shows women do better at promotion boards and that women and minority ethnic personnel can benefit from “being visible and recognisable/memorable”.225 However, these groups are “less likely to get there [boards] due to a number of artificial barriers”.226 In acknowledging these problems, in July 2020, General Sir Nick Carter told us the Armed Forces’ career structure is still “designed predominantly for men”.227 As a specific barrier, he said that individuals are “massively disadvantaged” if they take time to start a family.228

110.The MOD and Single Services signed the voluntary ‘Women in Defence’ Charter.229 Additionally, the MOD set up a ‘Gender Balance Working Group’ around one year ago, which is aiming towards a leadership target of 30% representation of women at OF7/2* and above by 2030.230 The MOD states that the Working Group understands there is “no silver bullet” and many interventions will be necessary to boost women’s representation in Forces.231 The Working Group focuses on five areas: promotion/reporting; cultures and behaviours; families; lateral entry and re-joiners; and talent management/mentoring and sponsorship.232 The Working Group is an additional role undertaken by individuals with other portfolios.233 The Chief of Defence People explained that one of the areas (lateral entry and re-joiners) is about allowing individuals to “join at a slightly higher level” and “accelerate the progress” in improving women’s representation throughout the Armed Forces.234 There will also be a move towards a ‘pan-defence skills framework’, which will value external experience more.235 The Army is also adapting its system for managing talent via Programme CASTLE, including trials of lateral entry.236

111.In Summer 2020, the Chiefs of Staff committed to modernising the promotion system to consider emotional intelligence, integrity and behaviours more, and to an “independent review of promotion boards”—to report in early 2021—which would “refresh our current appraisals process”, and “review all job specifications” to get rid of “arbitrary barriers to progression”. (This review of boards is not available at the time of writing.) They also said that they would make the career structure more flexible, as well as the terms and conditions of service. They believed “lateral entry” schemes would help with “specialist career streams”. Finally, they committed to “positive action pathways” and pointed to a Women’s Development Programme.237

112.We have no information on the current status of the initiatives envisaged by the Chiefs. The report into the review of promotion boards (foreseen in early 2021) is not available. The MOD told us that the Working Group is “entering the delivery stage” and that it will be necessary to wait “some time” before measuring the effectiveness of its first initiatives.238 Senior leaders we consulted had not heard of it. However, some female Service personnel believed that the pathway for progression was becoming clearer for women joining now and the Women’s Networks had had a positive impact.

113.Female Service personnel–particularly those with children–are under-represented among military leaders in the Regulars and the Reserves. The imbalance is most severe among Senior Officers (OF7/2* and above), where the MOD says it may take over 300 years to improve. We endorse the recent commitments by the Chiefs of Staff and the Gender Balance Working Group. The MOD obviously recognise there are concerns. However, we want to see progress in practice. We struggle to assess the scope, reach and impact of these from the evidence provided. We doubt the Gender Balance Working Group has the resource and status to meet its stated aims. There needs to be a plan to deliver the targets for female personnel in leadership roles. Without these, the Chiefs of Staff’s statement is in danger of lacking teeth.

114.Using measurable Key Performance Indicators, the MOD’s new Diversity and Inclusion Directorate must oversee the Working Group, holding it to account on the speed, reach and impact of its work and the Service-specific levels of ambition. It may be necessary for staff from the Directorate directly to take over parts of its work, given that Group members perform this role on top of their day jobs. The workstreams of the Group should encompass all the areas that the Chiefs of Staff committed to. The Department should report progress to us annually.

55 There were no large differences in the responses of veterans and serving personnel.

56 Some servicewomen spoke about how much they loved their experiences, for instance Cdr Suzy Conway (WAF0032); Anna Wright, Q44; Maria Lyle, Q45

57 Ministry of Defence (WAF0057) paras 2, 14, 19.

58 Military War Security Research Group, Newcastle University (WAF0036); RAF Families Federation (WAF0038); Royal British Legion (WAF0064) para 2.5.1

59 In confidential evidence and open-text comments of our survey, female Service personnel and veterans praised the lifting of institutional barriers. Many felt that women are more accepted today, and that there is less tolerance of sexism or sexual harassment. See also Dr Beverly Bergman (WAF0016); Commander Andrew Loring (WAF0017); Diane Allen, Q4.

60 For example, Military War Security Research Group, Newcastle University (WAF0036); Naval Families Federation (WAF0040); Diane Allen (WAF0051); Ministry of Defence (WAF0057) para 4(h); Agora (WAF0059); Anonymous (WAF0076); Dr Sophy Antrobus and Hannah West (WAF0061); confidential evidence submissions.

61 Published examples: Salute Her, Forward Assist (WAF0012); Anonymous (WAF0024); Naval Families Federation (WAF0040); Justine Montgomery (WAF0048); Diane Allen (WAF0051); Anonymous (WAF0052); Anonymous (WAF0054); Christina Dodds and Dr Matthew Kiernan (WAF0065); Professor Anthony King (WAF0066); Anonymous (WAF0076). In particular, the written evidence of Diane Allen (WAF0051) groups together several examples from the 163 (mostly Army) servicewomen and female veterans who contacted her. The ‘Anti-belonging’ theme is most relevant.

62 Military War Security Research Group, Newcastle University (WAF0036); Christina Dodds and Dr Matthew Kiernan (WAF0065) para 2.3. In the latter, Christina Dodds, an Army veteran and academic, identified “significant similarities” between generations of female veterans, based on research with female veterans who served in World War II, Northern Ireland, Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan.

63 Anonymous (WAF0052)

64 For example, Naval Families Federation (WAF0040); Elaine Dobson (WAF0001) para 17; Maria Lyle, Q65

66 Dr Sophy Antrobus and Hannah West (WAF0061)

67 Christina Dodds and Dr Matthew Kiernan (WAF0065) para 5.7.

68 MOD, Lived Experience Summary (April 2019), p 4.

69 Nick Carter, Q75

70 Johnny Mercer, Q25

71 Ministry of Defence (WAF0057) para 1

72 MOD, Lived Experience Summary (April 2019), p 1. This is also mentioned in Ministry of Defence (WAF0057) paras 4, 9.

73 Ministry of Defence (WAF0057) para 9.

74 For example, Naval Families Federation (WAF0040); RAF Families Federation (WAF0038); Military War Security Research Group, Newcastle University (WAF0036). The last of these also notes that the “in-service experiences of women of colour from Commonwealth backgrounds may be different to those of UK-born BAME female personnel”.

75 Due to low rates of sexual orientation declaration by personnel and limited gender identity data.

76 Ministry of Defence, A Force for Inclusion: Defence Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2018 to 2030 (October 2018), pp 15–17. Relevant objectives under this goal are engaging and valuing Defence People, understanding the diversity of people (via personal diversity data) and eliminating Bullying, Harassment and Discrimination. Indicative (non-exhaustive) commitments are to i) reduce gaps in appraisal scores between groups, ii) ensure 95% of staff to have done updated mandatory Diversity and Inclusion training, iii) reduce the number of Service Complaints, employment tribunals and grievances upheld against the MOD that relate to discrimination, iv) use Equality Analysis in decisions.

77 Exact date unknown. The Directorate was established after the Wigston review (July 2019) and by the time of the progress review (December 2020).

78 Samantha des Forges, Q147. 19 posts were added. Ministry of Defence, Unacceptable behaviours: progress review 2020 (December 2020), p 14

79 Figure 7, Ministry of Defence, UK armed forces biannual diversity statistics: 1 April 2021 (10 June 2021)

80 Other aspects that servicewomen found exclusive (not considered due to space constraints) include gender-specific language and unclear Mess etiquette for servicewomen.

81 Although the MOD used the term ‘inappropriate behaviours’ in 2019, it later updated its terminology to ‘unacceptable behaviours’, to reduce ambiguity in interpretation. Ministry of Defence, Unacceptable behaviours: progress review 2020 (December 2020), pp 7, 8. In this inquiry, we treat these terms as equivalent and make use of the MOD’s latest terminology (‘unacceptable behaviours’).

82 Ministry of Defence, Report on inappropriate behaviours (July 2019), p 3. This is widely known as the ‘Wigston review’ and is called this in later references.

83 Ministry of Defence, Unacceptable behaviours: progress review 2020 (December 2020), p 4

84 It is difficult to get a “single comprehensive picture” of unacceptable behaviours, and it is necessary to use data from many sources, such as the continuous attitude surveys, Service surveys, the Service Complaints Ombudsman and the Service Justice System. MOD, Wigston review (July 2019), pp 3, 7

86 MOD, Reserves Continuous Attitude Survey Results 2020 (June 2020), p 8. For comparative purposes with RESCAS 2020, 12% of (trained) UK Regular Armed Forces personnel said they experienced bullying, discrimination or harassment (BHD) in the last 12 months in the AFCAS 2020.

87 A higher share of veteran respondents (64%, or 1,573) reported these experiences.

88 Ministry of Defence, Annex B to AFCAS main report 2020 reference table (May 2020), p 793.

89 Ministry of Defence, Annex B to AFCAS main report 2020 reference table (May 2020), p 798. Sex-disaggregated results on BHD for the AFCAS 2021 are not readily available.

90 Ministry of Defence, Reserves Continuous Attitude Survey Results 2020 (June 2020), p 8

91 Tables 2.5e and Table 2.5f with SCOAF Statistics, Service Complaints Tables 2020, at Annual Reports - Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces

93 Generalised behaviours relate to the culture and working environment. Targeted behaviours are aimed at, and specific to, an individual. British Army, Army sexual harassment report 2018 (2018), p 3

94 Servicemen were more likely than women to be sent sexually explicit material and as likely to report an attempted sexual assault. British Army, Army sexual harassment report 2018 (2018), pp 22–23

95 Royal Navy and Royal Marines, Royal Navy and Royal Marines sexual harassment survey 2015 (2015), pp 10–12

97 Dr Rachel Fenton (WAF0073); Centre for Military Justice (WAF0056) paras 19–21.

99 Ahmed Al-Nahhas, Q119

100 British Army, Army sexual harassment report 2018 (2018), p 4

101 Bolt Burdon Kemp (WAF0043). Relatedly, King’s Centre for Military Health Research (WAF0049) suggests it is wrong to see partner violence exclusively at an issue affecting women.

102 Child Rights International Network (CRIN) (WAF0077) paras 2, 4

103 Letter dated 29/03/2021 from Johnny Mercer MP to Carol Monaghan MP regarding the number of allegations of sexual assault reported to the Service Police forces by female Armed Forces personnel aged under 18, 1 Jan 2015 to 24 Feb 2021. Deposited paper DEP2021–0306

104 Most servicewomen provided stories via confidential evidence or in survey open-text comments. Published examples: Anonymous (WAF0024); Anonymous (WAF0052); Anonymous (WAF0054)

105 Centre for Military Justice (WAF0056); Bolt Burdon Kemp (WAF0043) and Diane Allen (WAF0051); Justice4Troops (WAF0078). In Diane Allen (WAF0051), see the ‘Just Plain Wrong’ and ‘Operations and Overseas’ headings in particular.

106 Over 95% of the 163 women who contacted Lt Col (Retired) Allen reported this. Diane Allen (WAF0051)

107 More on the bystander effect is at Elaine Dobson (WAF0001)

108 Over 80% of the 163 women who contacted Lt Col (Retired) Allen reported this. Diane Allen (WAF0051)

109 For example, Anonymous (WAF0054) and Centre for Military Justice (WAF0056) para 60. Professor Anthony King argues that there is a problem of double standards in how sexual relations are treated within units. He notes that “if two soldiers are guilty of fraternization, the female is blamed and denigrated. This is unfair […] both should be held equally accountable. Indeed, where male superiors have fraternized with their female subordinates, they should be deemed more responsible. In addition […] offensive and derogatory terms are still routinely employed in the armed force to denigrate and exclude women; the abusive terms ‘bitch’ and ‘slut’ are very common.” Professor Anthony King (WAF0066) para 4

110 Ministry of Defence, Wigston review (July 2019), p 4; Ministry of Defence (WAF0057) para 4; Baroness Goldie, Q140; Dr Fenton (WAF0073).

111 Diane Allen (WAF0051). Especially ‘Just Plain Wrong’ and ‘Abuse of Power’ themes.

112 Nick Carter, Q75

113 Diane Allen, Qq 16, 18, 20; Graham House, Q109

114 Bolt Burdon Kemp (WAF0043)

115 Dr Karin Spenser, Dr Carrie Childs, and Dr Joanna Adhikari (WAF0042)

116 Nicola Williams, Q69

117 MOD, Wigston review (July 2019), p 3

118 MOD, Wigston review (July 2019), p 3

119 MOD, Wigston review (July 2019), p 13

120 Centre for Military Justice (WAF0056) para 18

121 All recommendations listed in MOD, Wigston review (July 2019), pp 34–35

122 Also Recommendation 13 in MOD, Unacceptable behaviours: progress review 2020 (December 2020), p 27

123 Recommendations 1.11, 1.12, 1.15, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 2.6, 2.7, 2.8 in MOD, Wigston review (July 2019), pp 34–35

124 Ministry of Defence, Unacceptable behaviours: progress review 2020 (December 2020), p 4

125 Air Vice Marshal Byford, Q143

126 Detail by Service at MOD, Unacceptable behaviours: progress review 2020 (December 2020), p 10

127 Ministry of Defence, Unacceptable behaviours: progress review 2020 (December 2020), p 12

128 Samantha des Forges, Q142

129 James Swift, Q141

130 James Swift, Q145

131 Ministry of Defence, Unacceptable behaviours: progress review 2020 (December 2020), p 19

132 Samantha des Forges, Q148

133 For example, mandated D&I and values training across all Services; extra training on behaviours, ethics, culture and inclusion on command courses; and targeted training for those who have roles such as D&I Advisers. There is active bystander training across the whole force. For more, see James Swift, Q141; MOD, Wigston review (July 2019), pp 13–14.

134 Out of the 1,637 serving personnel who responded, 1,135 (~69%) said they receive sufficient training.

135 MOD, Wigston review (July 2019), pp 13–14

136 The progress review singled out particularly D&I Adviser/Practitioner training and the Senior Leaders course. Ministry of Defence, Unacceptable behaviours: progress review 2020 (December 2020), p 21

137 Ministry of Defence, Unacceptable behaviours: progress review 2020 (December 2020), p 21

138 RAF Families Federation (WAF0038)

139 MOD, Wigston review (July 2019), p 14

140 MOD, Wigston review (July 2019), p 14

141 Dr Fenton (WAF0073)

142 James Swift, Q146; Baroness Goldie, Q132

143 James Swift, Q146

144 Ministry of Defence, Unacceptable behaviours: progress review 2020 (December 2020), p 19

145 Ministry of Defence, Unacceptable behaviours: progress review 2020 (December 2020), p 27

146 Recommendation 2.9: Communication on behaviours must be consistent and persistent. How we deal with inappropriate behaviour must be transparent, including the appropriate publication of outcomes).

147 Of interest, currently serving personnel were more likely to report problems with uniform and equipment than veterans. Veterans excluded from headline figures to reflect most current concerns.

148 In each Service, over three-quarters of serving female personnel who responded.

149 Diane Allen, Q34; Anonymous (WAF0052); Royal British Legion (WAF0064) para 2.7.1. These problems were also discussed in the survey and many pieces of confidential evidence our Committee has seen from currently serving female personnel.

150 Salute Her, Forward Assist (WAF0012)

151 Royal British Legion (WAF0064) para 2.7.1

152 For instance, see United States Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, 2018 Annual Report (2019), pp iii-iv, 24–28.

153 Anglia Ruskin University and the Cobseo Female Veterans Cluster (WAF0020)

154 Ministry of Defence (WAF0057) para 4(l)

155 Ministry of Defence (WAF0057) para 7

156 Ministry of Defence (WAF0057) paras 12, 19

157 Ministry of Defence (WAF0057) para 5

158 Air Vice Marshal Byford, Q134

159 Baroness Goldie, Q133

160 Baroness Goldie, Q133

161 Baroness Goldie, Q133

162 We do not have information to judge the progress of the trials.

163 Baroness Goldie, Q134

165 Baroness Goldie, Q133. We do not have access to this list.

166 James Swift, Q136

167 For example, Kelly Baker (WAF0006); Anonymous (WAF0052). This was also reflected in confidential evidence.

168 Paula Edwards, Q36; Diane Allen, Qq37–38; Maria Lyle, Q65; Dr Bergman (WAF0016)

169 Salute Her, Forward Assist (WAF0012)

171 Prior to this, the MOD’s written evidence had said it was “assessing” making available sanitary products for personnel deployed on operations abroad. Ministry of Defence (WAF0057) para 8

172 Ministry of Defence (WAF0079)

173 Ministry of Defence (WAF0079)

174 Ministry of Defence (WAF0079)

175 Ministry of Defence (WAF0079)

176 Ministry of Defence (WAF0079)

177 James Swift, Q137

178 Kelly Baker (WAF0006). This was also noted by servicewomen in confidential evidence.

179 A related example is a situation in which a servicewoman felt that gender stereotypes influenced the delivery of care she received. See Justine Montgomery (WAF0048).

180 King’s Centre for Military Health Research (WAF0049); Royal British Legion (WAF0064) para 2.7.2

181 King’s Centre for Military Health Research (WAF0049); Royal British Legion (WAF0064) para 8.3

182 Kelly Baker (WAF0006). This was also noted by servicewomen in confidential evidence.

184 Kelly Baker (WAF0006)

185 Anna Wright, Q65; Maria Lyle, Q65

186 Samantha des Forges, Q138

187 Ministry of Defence (WAF0057) para 23; Maria Lyle, Qq62–63

188 Maria Lyle, Q63

189 Ministry of Defence, Living in our shoes understanding the needs of UK Armed Forces families: government response (29 March 2021), response to recommendation 77. Similar initiatives may be in place in the Army but we have not received evidence of these.

190 Ministry of Defence (WAF0057) para 8

191 Baroness Goldie, Q137

192 James Swift, Q139

193 Ministry of Defence, Armed forces continuous attitude survey: 2021 (20 May 2021), p 13

195 ‘Living in our Shoes’ review team (WAF0041)

196 Ministry of Defence (WAF0057) paras 24–25

197 ‘Living in our Shoes’ review team (WAF0041)

198 Ministry of Defence (WAF0057) para 4(c)

199 ‘Living in our Shoes’ review team (WAF0041)

200 329 respondents, out of 1,637 currently serving female personnel who participated.

201 Ministry of Defence, Armed forces continuous attitude survey: 2021 (20 May 2021), p 14

202 Ministry of Defence, Free ‘wraparound’ childcare for the armed forces (7 July 2020)

203 Ministry of Defence, Defence in a competitive age (March 2021), p 36

204 Maria Lyle, Q51

205 Ministry of Defence, Flexible Service in the armed forces (28 January 2021). Part-time means reducing work routines by 20% or 40% equating to one or two days in a five-day working week and restricting time away from base means no more than 35 days a year.

206 Ministry of Defence, Armed Forces Bill 2021 (12 February 2021)

207 James Swift, Q130

208 James Swift, Q131

209 Ministry of Defence (WAF0057) paras 4, 21

210 Maria Lyle, Qq62–63

211 Ministry of Defence (WAF0057) para 23

212 Ministry of Defence (WAF0079)

213 Anna Wright, Q47; RAF Families Federation (WAF0038)

215 MOD, UK armed forces biannual diversity statistics: 1 April 2021 (10 June 2021). Senior Officers are those in the OF-6 to OF-9 ranks; Junior Officers are those in the OF(D)/OF-1 to OF-5 ranks. See Appendix 1.

216 2* is equivalent to OF-7; 3* is equivalent to OF-8. See Appendix 1.

218 Ministry of Defence (WAF0057) para 4

220 Ministry of Defence (WAF0057) para 4

221 Ministry of Defence (WAF0057) para 26

222 Published examples: Salute Her, Forward Assist (WAF0012); Naval Families Federation (WAF0040); Justine Montgomery (WAF0048); Diane Allen (WAF0051); Anonymous (WAF0052); Christina Dodds and Dr Matthew Kiernan (WAF0065) In particular, the evidence of Diane Allen (WAF0051) groups together relevant examples from the 163 (mostly Army) servicewomen and female veterans who contacted her. The ‘Glass Ceiling’ theme in this evidence is most relevant.

223 For example, Anonymous (WAF0005). This point was also made in confidential evidence.

224 Diane Allen, Q28

225 Ministry of Defence (WAF0057) para 4

226 Ministry of Defence (WAF0057) para 4

227 Nick Carter, Q75

228 Nick Carter, Q75

229 Among other things, this involves setting internal targets to improve gender diversity among senior leaders. UK Government, Women in defence charter (January 2020)

230 Ministry of Defence (WAF0057) para 4

231 Ministry of Defence (WAF0057) para 17

232 Ministry of Defence (WAF0057) para 16

233 Ministry of Defence (WAF0057) para 17

234 James Swift, Q124

235 James Swift, Q131

236 British Army, Army People Strategy (2019), p 4

237 Further information is not available.

238 Ministry of Defence (WAF0057) para 17

Published: 25 July 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement