Thursday 3rd December 2020

This week, the Defence Committee launched an inquiry on Women in the Armed Forces: From Recruitment to Civilian Life. The inquiry has the intention of this becoming a Sub-Committee, chaired by Sarah Atherton MP. For this inquiry, the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has lifted the usual restrictions, allowing female Service personnel to participate in the inquiry.

The Committee

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.

The Committee will look at:

  • Whether the Government and MoD is doing enough to address any additional challenges
  • how easy it is to make a complaint, and identify what barriers there are to female personnel complaining
  • whether the experiences of female BAME personnel differ
  • why women chose to leave the Armed forces
  • whether ex-servicewomen face different challenges to men during their transition to civilian life
  • whether the needs of female veterans are currently met by the available services; and
  • the effect that the introduction of the Armed Forces (Flexible Working) Act (2010) has had

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 survey

As part of this inquiry, the Committee will be undertaking a survey, hoping to hear from female service personnel about their experiences serving.

Take part in the survey.

Chair of the planned Sub-Committee on Women in the Armed Forces, Sarah Atherton, said:

“Women make a vital and valued contribution to our Armed Forces and to our country. However, serious challenges remain. Female personnel are more likely to make complaints, more likely to report mental health difficulties and more likely to be subject to sexual assaults. 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. There is worrying data to suggest a disparity in the experiences of women and men both during and after leaving the Armed Forces that demands serious examination. Neglecting to do so is a disservice to those prepared to lay down their lives for our safety and protection.

Our Forces are stronger, richer and more capable when they are diverse and inclusive. A robust Armed Forces includes personnel from all walks of life, with different experiences and fresh perspectives. This is not only the right thing to do but contributes directly to operational effectiveness. We need the right person for the right role, and it is in no one’s interest to discourage women from joining and remaining in the Armed Forces.”

Deadline for submissions

The Committee is asking for initial written evidence to be submitted by midnight on 31 January 2021.

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