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 was 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 was 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.
The Committee looked 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.
As part of this inquiry, the Committee will be taking evidence from female service personnel about their experiences serving.
Firstly, the committee took evidence via a survey. The survey had over 4200 responses - the most ever submitted to a Defence Select Committee inquiry.
This was followed by three oral evidence sessions and focus groups.
To view a selection of clips from the first oral evidence session, go here:
To view a selection of clips from the second oral evidence session, go here:
To view a selection of clips from the final oral evidence session, go here:
The Final Report
On Sunday 25 July, the final report, 'Protecting those who protect us: Women in the Armed Forces from Recruitment to Civilian Life' launched.
I am proud that the report gave serving women and veterans a voice in Parliament for the first time, allowing them to share their experiences and contribute to this important national debate. The inquiry also allowed the Defence Select Committee to understand what was going right for our female military personnel and what was also going wrong, which allowed us to make recommendations to the Ministry of Defence for what changes should be made so that the women in our Armed Forces can be better protected.