Sophie Wilkinson | Contributing Editor | Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The Army Wants To Help More Women Reach Top Roles

The Debrief: it might not seem an attractive prospect, but it's the principle that counts…

The bloke who heads up the army says that he wants to re-structure the army's career ladder so that women can be a bigger part of its top ranks and it can 'maximise the talent that is available in 51 per cent of our society'.

General Sir Nicholas Carter made a long speech to Chatham House think-tank and in it, reports The Times, he said that the army's recruitment shortage means that more women and people from ethnic minorities need to be sought for the armed forced.

'We have a career structure at the moment which is fundamentally a male career structure.

'It has in it a number of break points, which sadly encourage women to leave rather than encouraging them to stay.

'What we have got to do is to have a career structure that genuinely provides women to pull right through to the top of the army so that we maximise the talent that is available in 51 per cent of our society.'

Only 9.9% of the armed forces are women. Plus, while in America women soldiers are rising to the ranks of admiral and four-star general, in the UK no woman has gone above the rank of brigadier-general (that's a one-star general so is three rungs below a four-star general).

Ethnic minority recruits make up just 7.1% of the army, and Sir Carter said this too needed to be addressed, saying the army needs to 'think much harder about the way in which we embrace the consequences of diversity and the way in which we change the organisation to be one reaches out to all types of British society'.

At present, just 480 Muslims serve in the army.

About the quest to get more women and ethnic minorities suited and booted so they can do things like go to far-flung countries to engage in combat? It's not a majorly (sorry, couldn't help it) attractive prospect, but if the head of the army, one of the most macho careers out there, can say that women are a necessary talent to his force, then maybe, just maybe, the pin will drop for the leaders of other industries that don't help women progress. It's the principle – that the head of the army is encouraging women to rise within its ranks – that counts.

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Tags: Work it, Sexism