I’m female and want to join the army – what do I need to know?

Many women enjoy army life, but sexual harassment and assault is very common.

How many women are there in the army?

The ratio of men to women is about 9:1.

If you join the army, then normally you will train in a single-sex platoon.

When you finish training, your unit will be mixed men and women.

How safe is the army for women and girls?

You should be respected in the army as a soldier, man or woman, but that’s not the experience of many women and girls.

Although the army is genuinely trying to deal with sexual harassment and assault, its own figures show the problem has been getting worse.

In 2021, a THIRD of women in the army said they’d had at least one ‘particularly upsetting experience’ of sexual harassment or assault in the previous 12 months.

That’s about 2,800 women.

In the same year, one in twenty women in the army said a man had tried to sexually assault her in the last 12 months.

Girls under 18 and women of low rank are most likely to be targeted – often by older men of more senior rank. In 2021, one in six girls aged under 18 were victims of sexual offences in the armed forces.

How does that compare with civilian life? Girls under 18 in the army are TWICE as likely as civilian girls of the same age to report a sexual assault or rape.

In 2016, the advice of one female officer to women and girls joining up was:

‘You are going into a male dominated environment. You should all be aspiring to meet the male standard. If you want to be respected by the males you are going to be working alongside, this is what you need to do.’

It’s important to realise also that many women enjoy being in the army even though they face these problems, and shouldn’t have to.

Source: Army, 2015; Telegraph, 2016; MoD, 2020; Times, 2021.