An expert on sexual misconduct said it would be dishonest for the Department of National Defense to promote the military as a positive workplace for women in an upcoming campaign after much information to the contrary.
The Canadian Armed Forces, which have long struggled to increase the number of women in its ranks, hope they will make up a quarter of the membership by 2026.
That figure now stands at around 15%, and an internal study suggests the department needs to recruit around 3,500 women each year to reach its goal.
Although recruiting more women poses a challenge, the military was rocked last year by public reports of allegations of sexual misconduct, including against its most senior officials.
Complaints of widespread inappropriate behavior prompted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to say that it was clear military complainants did not think they had a place to report their experiences. He asked a former Supreme Court justice in April to investigate the matter, more than six years after a previous report on the matter.
That same month, a consulting firm released a report based on focus groups with women aged 18-34 to test the ads ahead of a recruitment drive originally slated for October.
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, production has been halted and an adjustment in campaign plans and tactics has been required,” National Defense spokesperson Andrew McKelvey said Thursday.
He added that the department started working on this latest effort in the spring of 2020 and had released different versions of those ads over the years.
“Currently, we are planning to launch a campaign for women in winter. “
A summary of the report posted on a federal website explains how attendees saw storyboards with different advertising concepts that examined the lives of women in the Air Force, Royal Canadian Navy, and Canadian Army.
The images showed women traveling, mothers able to find a work-life balance with their families, and opportunities to serve in non-traditional settings.
“I think they have to deal with a cultural issue before they can somehow make claims in the recruitment drives,” said Megan MacKenzie, chair of international law and human security at the University. Simon Fraser who studies sexual misconduct in the military.
“It is dishonest to recruit women into an institution at this point with such positive messages when so many women and men who have been the victims of sexual misconduct say they do not feel safe in the institution. . “
The report includes summaries of the comments the 59 participants gave on the advertisements they saw, including one where they saw the post as one of the women accepted into the military if they were part of the LGBTQ community. .
“Participants felt that the ad did not address concerns about LGBTQ in the military, and to a few, it seemed at odds with what recent headlines are communicating about sexual abuse in the forces,” reads. we.
Another theme communicated through the various advertisements was that of women serving in the military still being able to care for their children, which drew both positive and negative reactions.
“Some participants did not like the stereotype that women have to take care of family or children and that a similar approach would not be used to recruit men,” according to the report.
For a similar case, he said the women felt that “the importance of a family-work balance is displayed in a more subtle way, showing only the pram instead of the baby.”
Different responses were also recorded for scenes showing a woman from the Royal Canadian Air Force working as a mechanic.
“The youngest participants said it was important to highlight work typically done by men done by a woman, but that a female mechanic is no longer so rare,” the report said, while asserting that others found the image “empowering”.
“It seems there is a little bit of trouble in explaining why the Canadian Defense Forces are a good place for women, or a good employer for women,” MacKenzie said after reviewing the report.
She questioned whether it was even possible for the department to conduct a positive recruiting drive when the military is in “crisis,” adding that she suspects that the months of well-documented reports of military misconduct are among the longest. High ranks could have an impact on the number of women and men who decide to join in the future.
—Stéphanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
Military sexual harassment