Army struggles to integrate women

February 7, 2003

The British army's much trumpeted attempts to attract and integrate female soldiers were dealt a severe blow this week as research revealed that many of "our boys" would like to keep the girls out.

Masculine culture still dominates the modern British army, whose top brass echoed tabloid stereotypes of female soldiers as gutsy types who would never be good enough to be real soldiers.

Women were characterised as sexy, tomboyish and, crucially, a disruptive influence, although no evidence of the last assertion was produced. These attitudes permeate decisions, policies and promotional literature, according to the researchers from Newcastle and Sunderland universities.

"For female soldiers, the idea of diversity allows their incorporation into the army, but only insofar as they can be like men. Military discourses about gender construct women as different in specific ways and many differences are seen not as physical but social. Some differences are presented as incompatible with military life."

The Ministry of Defence is trying to raise the proportion of female recruits from the current 8 per cent.

Researcher Rachel Woodward said: "Our research revealed attitudes and language used when discussing and writing about women that undermined the army's efforts to portray itself as a progressive employer. We found that the army is still a traditionally masculine organisation that is only adapting gradually to the inclusion of women."

For the report, jointly funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Ministry of Defence, the authors interviewed staff responsible for implementing equal opportunities and analysed army and Ministry of Defence policy documents.

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

James Fryer illustration (27 July 2017)

It is not Luddism to be cautious about destroying an academic publishing industry that has served us well, says Marilyn Deegan

Jeffrey Beall, associate professor and librarian at the University of Colorado Denver

Creator of controversial predatory journals blacklist says some peers are failing to warn of dangers of disreputable publishers

Hand squeezing stress ball
Working 55 hours per week, the loss of research periods, slashed pensions, increased bureaucracy, tiny budgets and declining standards have finally forced Michael Edwards out
Kayaker and jet skiiers

Nazima Kadir’s social circle reveals a range of alternative careers for would-be scholars, and often with better rewards than academia

hole in ground

‘Drastic action’ required to fix multibillion-pound shortfall in Universities Superannuation Scheme, expert warns