Should the British Army Adopt Gender-Neutral Naming Conventions for its Ranks?

Calls have been made for the Army to review its ranking system, following on from steps both the Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Navy (RN) have made towards more inclusive language in recent years.

Some army ranks/roles have no female or gender-neutral alternative, such as Guardsman, Kingsman and Craftsman.

Last year, the RAF dropped the terms ‘airman’ and ‘airwoman’ in favour of ‘aviator’. And, in 2020, it was reported the RN was moving away from “gendered language”, by swapping terms such as ‘unmanned’ for ‘uncrewed’.

Further afield, the Royal Canadian Navy has announced plans to use the term ‘sailor’ among its junior ranks in favour of the term seaman.

Female Recruits

In the latest set of statistics, published on 01 October 2021, the Army scored lowest out of the three services on the gender front.

Of the approximately 120,000 military personnel (regular and reserve), women make up:

  • 10% of the Army’s regular forces and 15% of its future reserves.
  • 10% of the Naval Service’s (Royal Marines and RN) regular forces and 16% of its future reserves.
  • 15% of the RAF’s regular forces and 23% of its future reserves.

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