The survey for the Women in the Armed Forces inquiry ran for two weeks, from 1 to 14 December 2020. It was completed by 4,106 women, of whom 1,637 were serving personnel and 2,469 were veterans. This is one of the largest research samples of current and ex-military women in the UK. However, the results should not be interpreted as representative of all women who serve, or have served, in the Armed Forces. The responses may demonstrate ‘self-selection’ or ‘volunteer’ bias, whereby they overrepresent individuals who have strong opinions or interests.
Around 9 out of 10 respondents are/were in the Regulars, with the rest drawn from the Reserves or not providing this information. At least 1,421 currently serving personnel in the survey were in the Regulars. This equates to approximately 9% of all women in the UK Regular Forces. All three Services were represented in the survey, although the British Army was best represented, followed by the RAF. Over half (2,778) of all responses came from serving Army personnel or veterans, 892 were from the RAF and 426 from the Royal Navy. Mixed ranks were represented, with respondents largely from these ranks (from junior to more senior):
There was less representation of the most senior women in the survey (OF-7 and above) and the ranks of some respondents were unclear or not given. To some extent, this is expected, as women make up a lower share of the most senior ranks. Appendix 1 presents a comparative table of ranks across the three Services.
Most survey respondents (3907, ~95%) were White, with the remainder from minority ethnic backgrounds (135, ~3%), or not answering this question (64, ~2%). Women of all ages responded to the survey, with the highest number of responses received from women aged between 35 and 54.
Highlights from the survey are below. In addition, 1,842 respondents provided open-text comments. The body of this report contains the analysis of open-text comments, as well as further quantitative results.
Respondents’ agreement that female serving personnel and veterans face additional challenges
Notes: Shows share of respondents who answered ‘Yes’ to the questions in the graphic, split by serving personnel and veterans. Serving personnel were not asked the question on transitioning. Base numbers for percentage calculation: 1,637 currently serving personnel and 2,469 veterans.
Reasons given by those who reported experiencing different treatment to other Armed Forces personnel (multiple answers possible)
Notes: Multiple answers possible. Shows the share of respondents who selected each reason, out of the 2,128 respondents who stated that they had been treated differently and who answered this question.
Share of currently serving personnel who think that facilities/equipment/uniform are inappropriate for the needs of female personnel
Notes: Covers the share of female serving personnel who answered ‘no’ when asked each of these questions: ‘Are/were the facilities appropriate for the needs of female personnel?’; ‘Is/was the equipment appropriate for the needs of female personnel?’, ‘Is/was the uniform appropriate for the needs of female personnel?’. Base number for percentage calculation: 1,637 currently serving personnel.
Whether respondents believe they have/had the flexibility at work to ensure a balanced family and working life
Notes: Shows share of respondents who answered ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ to this question: ‘Do/did you have the flexibility at work to ensure a balanced family and working life?’ Covers 2,407 veteran respondents and 1,624 currently serving respondents. 75 non-respondents excluded from the graphic and percentages.
Experiences of bullying, harassment and discrimination among survey respondents
Notes: Shows the share of respondents who answered ‘Yes’ to each of these questions, split by Serving personnel and veterans. Base numbers for percentage calculation: 1,637 currently serving personnel and 2,469 veterans.
Reported basis for bullying, harassment and/or discrimination, among those who reported experiencing an incident
Notes: Multiple answers possible. Shows the share of respondents who selected each reason, out of the 2,139 respondents (serving and veteran) who stated that they had experienced BHD and who answered this question.
Around six in 10 respondents who personally experienced bullying, harassment and discrimination did not report these incidents. Rates of reporting were only slightly higher amongst serving personnel than veterans.
Rating of the complaints system by those who had made a complaint
Notes: Covers 993 servicewomen and female veterans with experience of using the complaints system. May also cover individuals who used the complaints system for non-BHD complaints.
Views on the military’s actions to tackle bullying, harassment and discrimination
Notes: Shows answers to two questions on actions to tackle BHD, split by serving personnel and veterans. Rounding of percentages to nearest whole number means some do not equal 100%. Covers all respondents: 1,637 female serving personnel and 2,469 female veterans
Reasons for leaving the Armed Forces (multiple answers possible)
Notes: Veterans only. Multiple answers possible per respondent. Includes 2,545 veterans who answered this question.
Veterans’ assessment of their transition to civilian life
Notes: Covers 2,459 veteran respondents. 10 did not answer this question and are excluded from this graphic.
Are your needs currently being met by the veteran services?
Notes: 2,469 veteran respondents (all).
Was the Ministry of Defence helpful in your transition?
Notes: 2,469 veteran respondents (all).
487 Out of 4,106 survey respondents, 4070 answered this question. Of these, 3777 are/were Regulars and 293 are/were Reservists.
488 Some serving personnel chose not to say whether they were in the Regulars or the Reserves.
489 As of 1 October 2020, women constituted 11.0% of the UK Regular Forces (16,110 personnel). MOD, (Published 17 December 2020), p 15
490 10 respondents did not provide these details.
491 Minority ethnic personnel of both genders made up 9.1% of the UK Regular Forces in October 2020, although it is not possible to access data on the share of BAME women specifically in the Armed Forces, nor to consider how this compares to their representation among the survey’s respondents.
492 2,524 respondents answered this question. 1,538 (61%) had not reported the bullying, harassment and discrimination they experienced.
493 The incident-reporting rate was around 41% among serving personnel, versus 38% among veterans. Base numbers: 954 for serving personnel and 1570 for veterans.