The challenge of recruiting more women to the Canadian Armed Forces


by David Bercuson

June 1, 2018

One of the innovative programs that grows out of the Strong, Secure and Engaged defence policy statement released a year ago is the Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) project launched by the Department of National Defence in April this year. The project promises $1.3 billion over ten years to be distributed to scholars, businesses and researchers generally who undertake competitive endeavors to help the government solve 16 defence and security challenges in many domains. The majority of the proposals the government is seeking help with are highly technical challenges but one – to achieve 25 per cent female participation in the Canadian forces within ten years – is most decidedly not.

Since 2000, women are eligible to serve in any branch of the Canadian Armed Forces in any capacity.  Today about 15 per cent of Canada’s soldiers, sailors and air personnel are women. That number has been relatively static for some time. The government wants to see more women in the CAF for very good reasons, namely that female perspectives in the entire range of armed forces activities and defence-related matters is crucial and that any nation, company or military force that either excludes or does not encourage full participation of one half of humanity in its endeavours will be outpaced by those that do.

So what is the problem? The CAF offers a good career for young men and women who crave adventure in their lives, are physically and mentally fit, and who want to step out of the confines of an office or a factory assembly line. Benefits are generous, pay is at least equal to that in the private sector and Canadians today pay a great deal of honour and respect to those who serve.


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