Women in the Military - Canada

Military Women From Around the World

Today most of the world’s military feature women serving in some capacity of another.  The positions they are allowed to take vary from country to country however.  In some places there are few or no restrictions on the roles they can play while other countries limit women to strictly support positions.

Let’s take a look at how some countries allow women to serve in the military. The countries are in alphabetical order. We’ve included photos of women in each country’s military whenever we found images that could legally be republished here.


Women in the Military - Australia
Credit: isafmedia (via Flickr)

Australia has allowed women to serve in the military since 1899 and nearly all positions are open to them.  Before World War II women could only serve as nurses but since then the armed forces has opened more positions throughout the years.  They currently can serve in combat roles and by 2016 will be able to serve in frontline combat.  Even though most positions are open to them, less than 15% of the permanent members of the armed forces are women.


Women in the Military - CanadaCanada has had one of the most progressive policies toward women in the military.  They have been able to serve since 1885 and first served outside of nursing roles during World War I.  Today they have a no exclusion policy that allows women to serve in any position.  About 15% of all positions, and 8% of combat positions, are filled by women.


Many members of the Chinese military are women. They are allowed to join as young as 14 in medical and veterinary fields.  They can also enlist in other technical fields and support positions, but they are excluded from combat positions.


Women in the Military - France
Credit: seneweb (via Flickr)

Women first began serving in the French military preparing food in the 1800s.  The roles they filled began to expand in 1914 when they first served in the medical fields.  Now nearly all jobs, including combat roles, are open to women.  Approximately 15% of all French military personnel are women, with the Medical Corps having the greatest ratio with 50%.


Women in the Military - Germany
Credit: Bundeswehr-Fotos Wir.Dienen.Deutschland. (via Flickr)

Compared to many European countries, Germany has been slow to integrate women into the armed forces.  They were first allowed to serve in medical positions in 1975, and later musical positions were opened to them.  After a lawsuit in 2000 they allowed women to join combat roles for the first time.  The percentage of military personnel that are female remains under 10% today.


Women in the Military - Israel
Credit: U.S. Department of Defense (via Wikipedia.org)

Israel is one of the few countries in the world where women are drafted into the military.  They have participated in the armed forces since the founding of the country, but until 1996 they were excluded from combat positions.  Around one third of the military personnel are women.  Though women are conscripted like men they are still excluded from around 12% of military jobs and only have to serve for 2 years instead of 3 like their male counterparts.


Pakistan Military Woman - Shahida Badshah
Credit: Burhan Ahmed (via Wikipedia.org)

Women have been serving in the Pakistani Armed Forces since their founding.  It is the only military in the Islamic world that positions women in high ranking roles.  Today some combat roles in the navy are restricted from women but they are able to serve in any position in other military branches.  The first female fighter pilots, for example, came in 2006.

North Korea

Women in the Military - North Korea
Credit: Joseph A Ferris III (via Flickr)

InNorth Korea, all young men and women are required to serve in the military.  The length of time they serve can last from 8 to 18 years.  Many believe that this required military service is used as a way to keep control of the younger generation.  This is another one of very few countries that drafts women.


Throughout Russian history women have participated in the armed forces.  At first there were very few and only in minor roles.  But during the World Wars the number of women military personnel increased.  During World War II, many women fought in frontline combat positions.  After the war, most left the military. And today less than 10% of the armed forces are made up of women.


The United Kingdom has included women in the military longer than most countries.  They first began serving in the Royal Navy in 1696 on hospital ships.  Despite the fact that women have been a part of the military for a long time, they are still excluded from many combat positions.  The British military today consists of about 9% women.

United States

Women in the Military - United States
Credit: Official U.S. Navy Imagery (via Flickr)

There are examples of women who fought in the military under male pseudonyms in early United States history, but it wasn’t until 1941 that women were officially allowed to join.  The United States restricts women from some positions, but this year announced that more combat positions would be opened up.  About 15% of active duty personnel and 25% of the reserves are women.

As the divide between the frontlines and other areas becomes blurred in modern warfare, some people feel that there should no longer be restrictions on where women serve.  Even working in support positions does not guarantee safety.  Do you feel that women should still be kept from combat positions?  Were you surprised to learn of the military role for women in any of these countries? If your country isn’t on this list, tell us how women serve (or don’t) within your own military.

Written by
Jennifer Mattern
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