Discussing Gender Progress in the Canadian Armed Forces

Research Paper Title

Soldiering in the Canadian Forces: How and Why Gender Counts!


Women have advanced in Canada since the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in 1970. This Commission made 167 recommendations to redress documented inequalities and inequities. Six pertained directly to the full integration of women in the Canadian Forces (CF). In 1989, a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal instructed the CF to “fully integrate” women. Removing these gender-specific barriers in the Canadian military signifies a major step toward equality. Few nations allow women unrestricted access to all military occupations. Since these legislative policies, the evidence indicates that the CF has been slow and unsuccessful to meet demands (Davis, 1994; Chapstick, Farley, Wild, & Parkes, 2005; O’Hara, 1998a, 1998b; Tanner, 1999). The present study examines the everyday soldiering experiences of Canadian female soldiers as a step toward an increased understanding of gender and the CF.

This research utilises both quantitative and qualitative approaches. Quantitatively, statistics reveal tangible information regarding women’s success (e.g., earnings equality). Qualitatively, the focus rests on the examination of ruling texts and female soldiers’ life experiences as a means to explicate current institutional practices and the culture of soldiering. Using this multi-method comparative approach, the story of women’s integration emerges as varied. Quantitative results show that Non-Commissioned Member (NCM) female soldiers succeed relatively well. Yet, to do soldiering work, women give up on having a family, whereas men can do both. Female soldiers in the Officer class face more challenges; they do not earn as much as their male colleagues, and unlike them, they also face difficulties in maintaining both military work and family life.

There has been progress, but the military is a governmental body publicly controlled, thus, findings reveal insufficient efforts for such an agency. Although the military ideology is underpinned by obedience to orders, the CF did not obey fully the order to integrate women. Given the lengthy delay since the commission, and the moral and legal pressure that followed (human rights decision, employment equity act), the achieved results are mediocre. Such findings do not bode well for women in companies and organisations that do not fall under the employment equity act.

Read the full research: Soldiering in the Canadian Forces – How & Why Gender Counts (Gouliquer, 2011).


Gouliquer, L. (2011) Soldiering in the Canadian Forces: How and Why Gender Counts! PhD Thesis. McGill University.


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