Today, I will return to a topic that I have covered in several previous posts, and will continue to repeat: the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) is struggling to meet its goals for female representation, and is showing few signs of improvement. In fact, the Auditor General released a report in 2016 which stated that the CAF has no comprehensive plans to attract women at all!
This is unacceptable: the CAF cannot claim to have an ambitious goal like 25% female representation, while having no plan to reach it. To address this, today’s blog will continue its look into the experiences of women in the CAF by outlining how Canada can improve its efforts to recruit women.
First and most importantly, the CAF has a major obstacle that it must address before even considering recruitment strategies: it lacks the proper data to make informed decisions on how to recruit more women!
While the CAF may have successfully incorporated gender-based analysis into its operations, it still struggles to do this for its recruitment. Since no significant studies have been conducted, there is no way to know how recruitment policies and programs influence women.
Rather than relying on external sources like Statistics Canada, or the Auditor General, the CAF must take this matter into its own hands and find out what practices work best!
With that said, there are some best practices that Canada can take from its allies that will help increase female representation:
For example, the US Marine Corps has recently had significant success in improving female representation by sending targeted mailings and by meeting with coaches and female athletes who might be able to handle the physically demanding nature of the service.
By actively pursuing these talented women, the Marine Corps has already nearly reached its recruitment goals despite only having started this program last year and being the branch of the US military with the lowest female representation. The CAF would be wise to do the same and actively reach out to women too.
Canada could also take inspiration from Israel, which enjoys one of the highest rates of female participation in Asia. In a study conducted by the Israel Defence Force, it was found that women were just as successful as men during their mandatory military service, and that the women who stayed after their mandatory service often found success in their military careers.
While Canada may not have Israel’s compulsory service, it could take this lesson and provide women with opportunities to try different roles in the CAF. With these opportunities, they may find that they fit well within the CAF and decide to stay for long, successful careers.
With all this in mind, it is worth noting that Canada will not achieve the most success by simply copying other countries. Instead, Canada must break its tradition of proceeding without any comprehensive plan to recruit women and truly study what works best in a Canadian context.
This issue is too important to proceed in any other way. As my last posts have demonstrated, having more women deployed in operations improves a country’s ability to operate effectively. Further, we are losing out on the incredible talent that they can bring to the CAF.
It is time for Canada to actively pursue ways to recruit more women into its military.