Study To shed light on female retention in the military

File photo.

File photo.

Peter Mallett
Staff Writer

A team of university researchers are trying to determine why a disproportionate number of women decide to cut their military careers short.

Women’s perception of the Canadian Armed Forces as an obstacle to female retention is an independent study funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Researchers want to find if there is a correlation between women’s perception of CAF culture and their decision to leave the organization.

“DND has implemented several measures over the past decades to achieve a more inclusive workplace, especially for women,” says Dr. Isabelle Caron, lead researcher from Dalhousie University. “Therefore, we decided to study the perception women have of the workplace, including organizational culture, to see if it plays a role in their decision to leave the organization.”

Caron is currently interviewing women who have left the CAF since January 2010. 

Most workplace inclusiveness initiatives launched by DND focus on recruitment. Researchers feel it is equally important to explore how to retain CAF women in their jobs.

Dr. Stéfanie von Hlatky from Queen’s University and Dr. Stéphane Roussel from École nationale d’administration publique (ENAP) and Dr. Magali Vullierme are assisting Caron in her research.

The study was developed following the publication of Canada’s Defence Policy in 2017 that aimed at increasing the percentage of women in the CAF by one percent per annum. The current percentage of women in the armed forces is still low at approximately 16 percent.

Researchers are conducting the first phase of the study, a series of in-depth interviews with approximately 30 women, ending in early May. Then in September, they will expand their interviews to capture more women.

Interviews are conducted via Zoom with the recorded interviewee’s voice intentionally distorted to protect their identity.

The study was approved by Dalhousie University’s Research Ethics Board and a number of other measures are being implemented to ensure anonymity.

Caron’s area of expertise as a researcher is in human resource management in public organizations.

“From an HR perspective, I am really interested in the organizational culture and its impact on individuals who work in the organization,” she says. “The CAF offers a very interesting case for looking at the organizational culture, its perception by members, in this case women, and the impact of perception on employees. In addition, I believe the results of this study could help the CAF to better understand the challenges related to women’s retention.”

Caron says initial response and interest in the study has been strong, but she is looking to bolster those numbers with greater participation. If you would like to take part in the study please contact her at


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