Women in the Canadian Armed Forces

Backgrounder / March 7, 2018

March 7, 2018 – Ottawa – National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces

Women have been serving in Canada’s military for over a century and today play a pivotal role in defending Canada’s safety and security. The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) was one of the first military forces to allow women to serve in all occupations, and today is setting ambitious goals to increase representation across all trades and ranks. Our objective is that by 2026, one in four CAF members will be women.

By the end of 2017, there were 12 women at the General and Flag Officer ranks in the CAF, a record high with four in each service. The number of women in senior NCM ranks also rose to 57 Chief Warrant Officers and Chief Petty Officers 1st Class, as did the number of women in Special Forces roles.

The CAF values diversity and recognizes the strength that women bring to our force through enhanced operational effectiveness. Canada’s military continues to strive to better reflect Canadian society in our ranks as we promote Canadian values at home and abroad.

The purpose of this backgrounder is to:

  • provide an update on statistical data on women’s representation rates in the CAF; and
  • provide an overview of the recruitment and retention strategies currently being used and developed.

Statistics

The CAF’s representation of women has grown from 11.4 percent in 2001 to 15.3 percent as of January 2018. A summary of female representation rates for officers and non-commissioned members (NCMs) in the Regular Force and Primary Reserve is as follows:

Representation of women in the CAF (January 2018)  

  CAFWomen
StrengthNumberPercentage
Regular Force
Officer 16 591 3 041 18.3%
NCM 49 979 6 896 13.8%
Total 66 570 9 937 14.9%
Primary Reserve
Officer 4 731 776 16.4%
NCM 22 277 3 630 16.3%
Total 27 008 4 406 16.3%
CAF
Officer 21 322 3 817 17.9%
NCM 72 256 10 526 14.6%
Total 93 578 14 434 15.3%

Women’s representation rates in CAF Combat Arms have grown from less than one percent in 1989-90, when women were first allowed to join the Combat Arms, to 4.3 percent in February 2018. The representation rates for women in the CAF’s Combat Arms occupations (Armour, Artillery, Infantry, Combat Engineer) as of February 2018 were as follows: 

Representation of women in CAF combat arms (February 2018) 

Regular Force
MOSIDMOSID DESCRIPTIONSTRENGTHMen%MenWomen%Women
00005 Crewman 1 923 1 864 96.9% 59 3.1%
00010 Infantryman 6 281 6 240 99.3% 41 0.7%
00178 Armour 550 529 96.2% 21 3.8%
00179 Artillery 628 574 91.4% 54 8.6%
00180 Infantry 1 402 1 362 97.1% 40 2.9%
00181 Engineer 588 549 93.4% 39 6.6%
00339 Combat Engineer 2 031 1 972 97.1% 59 2.9%
00368 Artilleryman 1 995 1 898 95.1% 97 4.9%
Regular Force Totals 15 398 14 988 97.3% 410 2.7%

 

Primary Reserve
MOSIDMOSID DESCRIPTIONSTRENGTHMen%MenWomen%Women
00005 Crewman - Reconnaisance 1 284 1 186 92.4% 98 7.6%
00005 Crewman - Armoured 577 534 92.5% 43 7.5%
00010 Infantryman 7 036 6 679 94.9% 357 5.1%
00178 Armour - Reconnaissance 251 233 92.8% 21 3.8%
00178 Armour - Armoured 81 80 98.8% 1 1.2%
00179 Artillery 313 291 93.0% 22 7.0%
00180 Infantry 960 928 96.7% 32 3.3%
00181 Engineer 201 185 92.0% 16 8.0%
00339 Combat Engineer 1 361 1 281 94.1% 80 5.9%
00368 Artilleryman 1 532 1 354 88.4% 178 11.6%
Primary Reserve Totals 13 596 12 751 93.8% 845 6.2%

 

Regular Force + Primary Reserve
MOSIDMOSID DESCRIPTIONSTRENGTHMen%MenWomen%Women
00005 Crewman 3 784 3 584 94.7% 200 5.3%
00010 Infantryman 13 317 12 919 97.0% 398 3.0%
00178 Armour 882 842 95.5% 40 4.5%
00179 Artillery 941 865 91.9% 76 8.1%
00180 Infantry 2 362 2 290 97.0% 72 3.0%
00181 Engineer 789 734 93.0% 55 7.0%
00339 Combat Engineer 3 392 3 253 95.9% 139 4.1%
00368 Artilleryman 3 527 3 252 92.2% 275 7.8%
Regular Force + Primary Reserve Totals 28 994 27 739 95.7% 1 255 4.3%

Recruitment and Retention of Women in the CAF

The CAF's goal is to increase the number of female personnel by 1% annually, so that by 2026, one in four members will be female. Current focus is on two key pillars: recruiting and retention.

The CAF recruiting strategy for women focuses on raising awareness of career opportunities in the CAF. This is done through engagement and outreach, advertising, job postings, media partnerships, social media, and individual recruiter efforts. Successful recruiting efforts saw the percentage of women enrolling in the Regular Force increase from 13.2% in 2015/16 to 17.6% in 2016/17 The CAF also proactively engages with key leaders, women’s professional associations, educators, and other key influencers to showcase the diversity of employment opportunities. New initiatives like the Women in Force program and engagements with CAF members who share their personal experiences have been instrumental in showing the women of Canada what life in the CAF might look like and increase the likelihood of considering a military career.

In addition to focusing on increasing the number of women in the CAF generally, specific attention is being paid to increasing the number of women in Special Forces roles. To this end, members from the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) have been participating in various outreach and recruiting programs, and the percentage of women in these roles has reached 10.2%.

CAF members are selected for training and promotions, postings, and all career opportunities based on merit, and regardless of gender. In combat occupations, CAF members must meet the same combat operation requirements and competencies in the same circumstances. From the start of their careers, CAF members are sensitized to gender equality, including the meaning, rights, and responsibilities of gender equity. All new CAF members receive Basic Diversity Training during basic training, and more advanced training is provided on advanced leadership qualification courses. Basic Diversity Training includes sessions on CAF personal conduct policies such as harassment prevention and resolution, personal conduct and relationships, sexual misconduct, and sexual harassment.

In 2015, the CAF launched Operation HONOUR to eliminate harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour in the CAF and to ensure a professional work environment free from harassment and discriminaition, in which all members are treated with respect and dignity.  The CAF is committed to increasing diversity, and promoting inclusiveness amongst its personnel because experiences on operations have shown that diversity enhances operational effectiveness.  The CAF Diversity Strategy approved in May 2016 forms the framework that directs, promotes, and safeguards the respect and dignity of all CAF Members and a supporting Action Plan was approved in January 2017. The CAF Diversity Plan also includes the concept of inclusivity with new research and information on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ+) members of the CAF and the development of a national LGBTQ+ support network within the CAF.

Canada’s defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, prioritizes the wellbeing of CAF members and their families, and places an unprecedented emphasis on ensuring that they are well supported. The CAF continually reviews and amends personnel policies so that CAF members, both women and men, can achieve a better balance between military service and family responsibilities. Additionally, demographic measures and indicators are regularly analyzed to identify systemic barriers to women’s military careers in areas such as release from the military, enrolment, offers of indefinite periods of service, performance review rating comparisons, and award nominations.

The CAF consults with its Defence Women's Advisory Organization, at both the national and local levels, to gain advice on issues relevant to women in the military, as well as the implementation of employment equity. Canada also consults its NATO allies on gender issues via the NATO Committee on Gender Perspectives. This Committee deals with the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security, as well as related UN resolutions.

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Contacts

Media Relations
Department of National Defence
Phone: 613-996-2353
Toll-Free: 1-866-377-0811
Email: mlo-blm@forces.gc.ca

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