Forces’ re­cruit­ment of women lag­ging

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OT­TAWA • Canada’s top military of­fi­cer ad­mits there has been slower progress than ex­pected to get more women into the Cana­dian Forces.New fig­ures show there has been only a small in­crease in the num­ber of women in the military over the past two years, but Gen. Jonathan Vance says he re­mains com­mit­ted to his goal of hav­ing women rep­re­sent one-quar­ter of all military per­son­nel by 2026.“I’m push­ing for 25 per cent women,” Vance said in an in­ter­view. “I would rather be crit­i­cized for try­ing and fail­ing and mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant in­cre­men­tal growth than for not try­ing at all.”The Cana­dian Forces has strug­gled for years to in­crease the num­ber of women, vis­i­ble mi­nori­ties and In­dige­nous peo­ple in the ranks, prompt­ing some in the past to ques­tion whether its tar­gets should be re­vised down­ward.Vance in­stead pub­licly as­serted in Fe­bru­ary 2016, shortly af­ter tak­ing com­mand of the Forces, that he wanted one in four ser­vice mem­bers to be women by 2026. At that time, barely 15 per cent of ser­vice mem­bers were women.The lat­est fig­ures pro­vided by the Depart­ment of Na­tional De­fence show at the be­gin­ning of Jan­uary that had grown to 15.7 per cent.“It’s not go­ing up as fast as I thought it might,” Vance said.But, he added, “we know for sure that there’s a health­ier work­place with a bet­ter gen­der bal­ance. We know that. So I refuse to aban­don the per­cent­age goal.”The 25 per cent tar­get was part of a push to make the Forces more re­flec­tive of Cana­dian so­ci­ety. It was given added im­por­tance in light of ef­forts to erad­i­cate sex­ual mis­con­duct in the military, which had been flagged only the year be­fore as a sig­nif­i­cant prob­lem in the ranks.The Trudeau gov­ern­ment has also made grow­ing fe­male rep­re­sen­ta­tion in United Na­tions peace­keep­ing a for­eign-pol­icy pri­or­ity.The military has had no­tice­ably more suc­cess with re­gards to rep­re­sen­ta­tion of vis­i­ble mi­nori­ties, which grew to 8.6 per cent from 7.4 per cent in Jan­uary 2017. The per­cent­age of In­dige­nous re­mained largely un­changed at 2.8 per cent.Nu­mer­ous mea­sures and ini­tia­tives have been rolled out over the past three years to in­crease the num­ber of women in uni­form, in­clud­ing tar­geted re­cruit­ing cam­paigns, im­prove­ments to fam­ily sup­port and the fo­cus on elim­i­nat­ing sex­ual mis­con­duct.And there have been pos­i­tive signs, Vance said, in­clud­ing a grow­ing num­ber of women study­ing to be­come of­fi­cers at the Royal Military Col­lege of Canada and moreTHE NUM­BERS ARE GO­ING UP SLOWLY, AND MAYBE THAT’S JUST HOW IT’S GO­ING TO BE.women tak­ing over se­nior po­si­tions in the Forces.“Right now re­ten­tion of women num­bers are bet­ter than men on a per-capita ba­sis,” he added. “So re­ten­tion of women is im­prov­ing. That’s a good thing.”Vance said one thing he will not do is lower the stan­dards that peo­ple must meet to join the Forces. In­stead, he said military of­fi­cials must think cre­atively and find new ways to meet the goal.“The num­bers are go­ing up slowly, and maybe that’s just how it’s go­ing to be,” he said. “It may not be a per cent a year. It may be 0.7 per cent a year. We’re go­ing to try. But I be­lieve you can get to 25 per cent of women in the Armed Forces.”

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