Project 28-40 Sector Insight: Uniformed and Armed Services

Executive Summary / Introduction

If you are serious about change, you as Service Chiefs and senior leaders need to take the lead on women’s progression, moving this from a diversity initiative to an operational effectiveness priority.

Demonstrate visible leadership in tackling bullying, harassment and sexual harassment. Send a clear message to all employees that poor behaviour should be called out and turn ‘zero tolerance’ policy into a reality.

Create a truly agile organisation, with women and men able to work in a way that makes them productive and engaged. Look at job design, technology and agile teams, and defeat the flexible working stigma that holds women – and men – back.

Recognise that working in a male dominated culture places specific and additional demands upon female personnel. This requires you to consult with women in your organisation to develop your understanding of what it is like to be a woman in a man's world. These women have expressed genuine concerns that you need to address.

Key Findings

For the Uniformed & Armed Services, recruiting from the widest possible talent pool is an operational imperative. The key findings in this Sector Insight are a wake-up call for employers in this sector who want to improve retention of the female talent they have invested in so significantly.

  • Women in the Uniformed & Armed Services are ambitious and confident in their capabilities – significantly more so than women across other sectors. This may not be surprising; the extraordinary demands placed upon service personnel and excellent leadership training received throughout a service career will inevitably attract and produce highly motivated, committed leaders. The disproportionate representation of women at all levels of this sector, particularly senior levels, is therefore all the more concerning.

  • Women in the Uniformed & Armed Services appear more anxious about their ability to develop their careers after having a family. 54% of women considering having children are unsure if they will want to develop their career if they do, compared with 45% of all women.

  • Women are frustrated by the lack of availability and negative perceptions of flexible working in the sector and the subsequent stigma attached.  Yet flexible working is essential to women (and men) in balancing their commitments. If the sector gets this right employee engagement and productivity can be enhanced – for everyone.

  • Women in this sector overwhelmingly feel that the culture of their organisation is male dominated. 87% of survey respondents agreed with this statement – which may result in negative perceptions. It is evident that many enjoy the challenge of being a successful woman in this challenging environment; however, many more feel isolated and unsupported.

  • Bullying and harassment is widespread and the prevalence of sexual harassment is particularly high in this sector. 23% of women have experienced sexual harassment at work in the last three years, almost double that experienced by all women (12%).

  • Project 28-40 found that many women viewed life at the top as unappealing. This is especially true for women in this sector, for whom there is additional pressure to succeed in a male dominated environment and to be a role model to other women.