Women have served in the military in different roles for a long time. Still, the increased admission of women to non-administrative, combat and leadership roles during the last century has overhauled the role of females in the armed forces while stopping short of achieving equal representation.
As data from NATO shows, the share of female active duty personnel in member states’ militaries ranges from 20 percent to 0.3 percent in the 27 countries reporting the figure, the latter in the case of Turkey. Another country whose enlisting of female recruits is still minuscule is India, as data from the Indian Department of Defense shows. The overall enlistment of females stands at 0.7 percent. The country could see a boost to female enlistment soon as the Supreme Court on Wednesday cleared the way for women to pursue all military leadership positions. The entrance to these high-level career paths is mainly governed through the country’s National Defense Academy, for which women will now be allowed to apply.
The Supreme Court meanwhile left in place the exclusion from combat roles for women in India. Many countries with high shares of female enlistment actually offer combat roles to women, for example the U.S., Germany, France and the UK as well as Scandinavian countries. Others suffer from low female enrollment despite allowing combat roles for women, for example Poland or Turkey, showing how a multitude of cultural and organizational factors influence women’s enrollment in the armed forces.
While comparable data was not available, countries practicing female conscription like Israel, Morocco and North Korea naturally have high female participation in the armed forces. The same is true for some selective services systems – where young people are required to dedicate time to the military or a social cause – for example in Sweden or Norway.