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Complaints of sexism in Defence Forces

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  • Complaints of sexism in Defence Forces

    In a major research project on the role of women in the Defence Forces, more than 10 per cent of serving female personnel who responded said they had experienced workplace sexual harassment or sexism, The Irish Times has learned.

    The study also found that just under 10 per cent of female personnel respondents said they had experienced bullying at different times in their careers.

    While the harassment and bullying findings represent a considerable improvement on a similar survey five years ago, respondents still reported a reluctance to lodge formal sexual harassment or bullying complaints, saying they feared repercussions for their careers.

    The new study, due to be released by Minister for Defence Willie O'Dea this week, is the most comprehensive Defence Forces research project in the history of the State. It was carried out by TNS/mrbi for the Department of Defence. All 520 serving female personnel were surveyed, with some 40 per cent responding. Interest groups and members of the public were also consulted about future strategies to attract more female recruits.

    Only a handful of formal complaints on bullying and harassment are received annually, and in some recent years no formal complaints have been received from serving female personnel.

    This is despite the establishment of the Defence Forces Ombudsman and the establishment of a major complaints network since the last survey, Challenge of a Workplace, was published in April 2002.

    It was carried out by the external advisory committee of the Defence Forces, and found one-third of female personnel had experienced sexual harassment.

    The new data, when published, will show that 200 "designated contact" personnel trained since 2002 to deal with complaints informally are favoured by female personnel instead of formal mechanisms. These findings are likely to result in an examination of the effectiveness of the formal mechanisms.

    No record is kept of the number or outcome of informal complaints, making it difficult for the Defences Forces and the Department of Defence to continually assess the extent of sexual harassment and bullying.

    However, the latest findings show a very significant majority of serving females expressed satisfaction with their military careers.

    The Irish Times understands the levels of satisfaction are as high as 80 per cent, with similar numbers of young women stating their military careers had to date surpassed their expectations.

    Currently female personnel represent just over 5 per cent of the 10,500 personnel serving in the Army, Navy and Air Corps combined.

    Both Mr O'Dea and Defence Forces chief-of-staff Lieut Gen Jim Sreenan are targeting a doubling of that figure.

    Those who carried out the new research also sought the views of interested parties on the general area of female recruitment to the Defence Forces.

    It is understood some of these findings will be used to plan recruitment campaigns which will increase the number of female recruits.

    The findings also suggest ways of improving the public image of the Defence Forces to make the forces more attractive to potential young female recruits.

    The minimum height restrictions for entry to the Defence Forces have been recently relaxed in a bid to attract more female recruits.

    From September 1st, 2006, the minimum height requirement for entry into both the Permanent Defence Force and the Reserve Defence Force for men and women were reduced from 162.56cm (5ft 4ins) to 157.48cm (5ft 2ins).

    © 2007 The Irish Times

    As from criodan.

    I noticed that there are 520 serving female personnel in the PDF. The article then goes on to say that 40% of these 520 replied, which is 208.
    IT then headlines a story saying that "more than 10 per cent of serving female personnel who responded said they had experienced workplace sexual harassment or sexism". 10% = 20 or 21. Then the headline is "Complaints of sexism in the DF". Anyone think that is a bit unfair? Should the emphasis not have been placed on the case that career satisfaction is as high as 80%?
    "Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here...this is the War Room!"