Introduction Women have formally been excluded from ground close combat (GCC) roles in the UK military until 2018. The opening of the final roles to all genders has been the result of a steady process and progression, gathering pace since the early 1990s. This paper considers the integration of women into GCC roles against a number of influential organisational change management theories.
Method A series of 12 focus groups were conducted in April 2018 with personnel from 4 infantry units, including attached women, to understand the key issues and attitudes surrounding women joining the infantry. A total of 123 personnel took part in the focus groups.
Results Themes from the focus groups were broken down by dominant groupings as per the discussions. Male personnel were largely concerned with physical and medical issues, infrastructure, potential dual standards and social cohesion. Attached females main concerns were regarding physical and medical issues, team dynamics, potential bias and the need to prove themselves as combat soldiers. Positives were identified by all male and female focus groups, including the benefits of increased diversity, more opportunities and equality for women, improvement of Army fitness levels and an increase in numbers.
Conclusions These findings helped to inform the Army approach to the integration of women into combat roles. The opportunity to discuss the change in policy was seen as positive by attendees, providing a 'safe space' to air any concerns and was important for the organisation to understand and mitigate any potential barriers.
Data availability statement
No data are available.
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Contributors JH, (guarantor) AM, LS and TB: focus group support.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.