Armed forces minister backs Hampshire MP's plea for 'gender-inclusive' military ranks

POLITICALLY-correct and gender-neutral military ranks should be introduced to encourage more women to join the armed forces, an MP has appealed.

Tuesday, 2nd February 2021, 7:00 am

Meon Valley MP Flick Drummond has asked the government to change more military job titles to make the forces more accessible for women.

The plea comes amid a debate among military top brass over changing historic army ranks like ‘craftsman’ and ‘guardsman’ to something less gender specific.

Tory MP Mrs Drummond called on armed forces minister James Heappey to back such a change during a defence debate in parliament.

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The former Portsmouth South MP said: ‘More and more women are pursuing careers in the forces. Will my right honourable friend look at how their personal development can be encouraged by ensuring the remaining gendered rank titles are updated to reflect the modern makeup of the services?’

The defence minister backed the plea. Replying, Mr Heappey told MPs: ‘My honourable friend makes a very valid point and this former Rifleman rather agrees.

‘The issue of gender rank titles is something the chiefs have been considering. Diversity and inclusion leads are working collaboratively across the services to produce an inclusive language guide for use in the spring.

‘This guide is informed by wider work Nato has done to produce gender-inclusive language manuals.’

In the Royal Navy there are now able ratings instead of able seaman and the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) is consulting on whether to change craftsman to artisan but it would need the support of the Ministry of Defence to happen.

Some critics and veterans have ridiculed the move.

Colonel Richard Kemp, ex-commander of the British forces in Afghanistan, said the army has several ranks incorporating the word ‘man’, for example, guardsman and rifleman.

‘Like craftsman, which goes back to the creation of the REME in the Second World War, soldiers take fierce pride in these ranks which they see as giving them a unique standing within a large organisation. This sort of tradition is important in building esprit de corps so vital for fighting forces,’ he added.

‘Rather than obsessing with identity politics and abandoning tradition, the simple solution is to call male soldiers “craftsman” and female soldiers “craftswoman” as the RAF has done with the rank of aircraftman, with females now called aircraftwoman.’

Women make up almost 11 per cent of Britain’s armed forces personnel.

Speaking afterwards, Mrs Drummond said more effort was needed to encourage more females into the military.

‘I am pleased the MoD is working on this issue and some titles have already been changed. We need more women in the armed forces and this will help foster more inclusivity,’ she added.

‘It is important to recognise the valuable contribution of each trade in the armed forces and make sure that they reflect gender equality.

‘The MoD has not hit its target of 15 per cent women in the armed forces so encouraging women to apply for all roles is important. Male rank titles should all be replaced to reflect this.’

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