Attrition: More Women in Uniform Worldwide


January 22, 2006: As European armed forces move from conscription to all-volunteer recruiting, they are finding that taking more women raises the quality of the force. They are following the experience of the Britain (where eight percent of the force is female) and the United States (15 percent). Although Britain has had a volunteer force for nearly fifty years, they do not have the highest percentage of uniformed women in Europe. The Czech Republic abolished conscription a year ago, and 12 percent of Czech troops are women. A decade ago, even with conscription, it was five percent. The Czechs have not had any problems with that many women in uniform, although some officers complain about some job categories being dominated by women, who are not allowed in combat units. However, about ten percent of the troops sent overseas, for peacekeeping missions (including Iraq) have been women, and the performance of the female troops was excellent. Still, many other European nations are reluctant to open up a lot of military jobs to women. In Poland, for example, only about one in 200 troops is female. But since no nation that has recruited women energetically has regretted it, most other countries will eventually have ten percent, or more, of their troops female. The increasing need for troops who can handle areas where women excel (medical, administrative, technical), and the declining proportion of combat troops, will remain the driving force behind this, at least if nations wish to obtain the highest quality military forces.


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