Growing number of women in military service

Since the reintroduction of compulsory military service three years ago, the number of women has increased by approximately one percentage point each year. This year, slightly more than 17 per cent of the conscripts are women.

40 per cent of the 90 conscripts who initiated their military service at the Skaraborg Air Wing (F 7) in September are women. Photo: Astrid Amtén/Swedish Armed Forces

”The goal set for 2020 was to have 20 per cent women, so we’re not there yet. But we’re very happy that there’s a positive trend” Jenny Ström, Commander and Head of the Armed Forces recruitment section, says.

There are great differences between service branches and units, however. The air wing units have been very successful, with 24 to 40 per cent women conscripts. And at the naval warfare centre in Karlskrona, 31 per cent of the conscripts are women. The Army still lags behind, possibly due to the fact that Army positions still require a higher level of physical strength, which is an impediment to women.

When asked why the Navy and Air Force have been more successful in attracting women, Jenny Ström responds in the following way:

“It is possible that the Army is perceived as more of a typically male environment by young women, whereas the Air Force and Navy are not. This is obviously something we want to change.”

The requirements are revised every year and in 2019 some of them were updated for a number of positions in the Air force and Navy mainly, and also in parts of the Army. With this update, a number of requirements were altered, making it easier for women to fulfil them. The technical development within the Air Force and Navy has rendered some of the physically demanding tasks less difficult and this has created better conditions for women to meet the requirements. Within the Army, there are still many positions demanding pure muscular strength, which makes it difficult for women in general to qualify for them.

This year, the Swedish Defence Recruitment Agency will distribute enrolment questionnaires to approximately 100 000 18-year-olds. Depending on how they reply, 15 000 of them will be summoned and 5 000 individuals will be enrolled in basic military training in 2021.

“We see a positive trend now among young women to do military service. The goal set for 2025 is 30 per cent women conscripts. We are currently working hard to reach the young women in order to change their perception of military service and the Armed Forces and make them feel that the Armed Forces is for them as well. Young soldiers who have just finished their military training are currently visiting schools to inform students about the Armed Forces and share their experiences”, Jenny Ström says.