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8 March 2022 | Comment | Article by Kathryn Singh

International Women’s Day: reflecting on women in service


By Amelia Davis and Megan Lloyd, Paralegals in the Industrial Disease team.

On this International Women’s Day, we here at Hugh James reflect on the women who serve within the British Armed Service.

Ever since the Women’s Service Act was passed in 1948, women have been able to hold a permanent role within Britain’s armed service. Sixty-eight years later, 2016 saw the ban on women in ground close combat being lifted, allowing women access to all roles to within the British armed service; creating equal opportunities for women who wish to explore a career within the military.

As of 1 April 2021, there were 16,740 women in the UK Regular Forces, making up only 11% of military personnel. The Ministry of Defence’s push for inclusion and equality has seen them set a new target for women to account for 30% of personnel recruited by 2030, this would be a large increase in female recruitment.

The Ministry of Defence have recognised that women are underrepresented within this career path and are making great strides to encourage women to join the armed services, creating campaigns that showcase the achievements of women in action, including ‘Women in Defence’ that aims to uplift women in the military for their hard work and shinning an honest spotlight on the diversity issue within this sector.

This International Women’s Day, we want to celebrate women in service by celebrating achievements published over the last 12 months.

Encouraging gender integration in the Jordanian Armed Forces

In 2021, an all-female team of British soldiers from the 16 Air Assault Brigade delivered a two-week training course for the Jordanian Armed Forces Quick Reaction Force (QRF) Brigade. One of the units deployed was a Female Engagement Team, led by Captain Smith. Bringing an all-female team to Jordan demonstrated the skills that women can bring to a team, which aims to encourage a higher level of gender integration in the Jordanian Armed Forces in the future.

Providing support to mothers in service

A combat medical technician, Lance Corporal Natasha Day has been named the ‘Inspirational Woman in Defence 2021’ for her role in working with the military to set up the Defence Breastfeeding Network. Natasha struggled to continue breastfeeding after returning to work when her son was six months old. She decided to set up the network to offer support to new mothers and provide a safe place for women in service to discuss breastfeeding and other related matters.

The network now supports more than 600 families and has helped reduce inequality in service by spreading awareness about breastfeeding and the difficulties women can face while balancing being a mother with their role in service.

Providing support during the COVID-19 pandemic

A royal Navy servicewoman, Medical assistant Petty Officer Jessica Metcalfe, has recently been made an MBE in the Queen’s New Year honours. On three separate occasions, Jessica stepped up to help medics supporting COVID-19 efforts ashore. During her time at sea, she arranged mental health training for military personnel and offered advice to anyone who was struggling. Jessica’s efforts played a key role in keeping morale on board high at such a challenging time.

Showing perseverance and dedication

In January 2022, Army officer Preet Chandi completed her 700-mile solo trek from the Hercules Inlet to the South Pole. The trek was expected to take between 45 and 48 days, but despite suffering from exhaustion, sickness and a persistent cough, Preet managed to complete the trek in only 40 days. In temperatures of up to -50 degrees Celsius, Preet travelled an average of 17 miles per day while pulling a 90kg sled through winds of up to 60mph.

Preet is the third fastest women to trek across the continent and is thought to be the first woman of colour to complete a solo expedition across Antarctica. Despite this huge achievement, Preet has already set herself a new aim of being the first woman to cross Antarctica coast-to-coast.

Women making history

This year, Commodore Jude Terry has been selected for promotion to Rear Admiral. This is the first time that a female officer will be appointed to the rank of Admiral, making her the most senior women in the history of the Royal Navy. This role involves overseeing training, welfare and career management for those serving in the Royal Marines. Jude will be responsible for sailors and Marines for the entirety of their military career, from the day they are recruited until their final day in service. Jude will be promoted to Rear Admiral in 2023 and will take over as the Royal Navy’s Director of People and Training and Naval Secretary.

Women supporting women

We continue to learn of the inspirational work and support of female personnel in and out of service. The following dedicated women in service and female veterans support groups are:

Here at Hugh James, we continue to represent women who have achieved and accomplished so much during their time in service. It is inspirational to hear of the challenges that women have historically faced and how the women of today are overcoming them. We Salute you!

Author bio

Kathryn is a partner and head of the Workplace Disease and Illness department which is ranked as a top tier firm for the work carried out. Kathryn leads a strong team of industrial disease specialists with an emphasis upon delivering a high level of specialist advice in multiple high value disease illness claims and complex group litigation.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.

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