Ethnic minority women and the British armed forces: a focus on gender differentials

Mohammed Ishaq, Asifa Hussain

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1 Citation (Scopus)


The issue of women serving in the British Armed Forces is both a topical and a politically sensitive subject, particularly with regard to the question of whether they should be allowed to perform combat roles. Indeed the issue has increased in salience in the last few years in view of the strong emphasis the Blair government has placed on diversity issues, particularly those of racial diversity. This policy shift has been reinforced by the Ministry of Defence's commitment to attract more ethnic minorities to the labour market. The new policy direction has simultaneously refocused political attention on other equality issues such as gender and sexuality. It is this growing realisation within governmental circles, that if strategies to attract greater numbers of ethnic minorities are to be effective, minority women need to be recruited, which is of particular relevance to this article. In this article we explore the issue of the participation/non participation of ethnic minority women in the British Armed Forces through a large-scale qualitative survey of their perceptions of the institution. We then evaluate the capacity of the Armed Forces to recruit both ethnic minority men and women into the Armed Forces. The findings illustrate a much larger degree of support for joining the Armed Forces amongst minority women than one might have anticipated and clear evidence of a greater desire among minority women to participate more actively in the labour market.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-188
Number of pages14
JournalPolicy Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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