Military Women of NATO Countries

Women serve in the armed forces of NATO's 16 member nations. The exceptions are Luxembourg - has no women in uniform, and Iceland - has no armed forces.

Belgium: About 3,120 women make up 7.18 percent of the Belgian armed forces. In February, for the first time, nine women began serving on a minehunter, thereby making up 19 percent of the vessel's crew.

Canada: About 6,700 women make up 10.8 percent of the regular force; another 5,800 or so make up 18.6 percent of the reserve. Women continue to move into senior leadership positions, and this year the Air Force appointed its first woman squadron commander. A woman also became a search and rescue technician, the first to serve in one of the toughest, most demanding occupations in the Canadian Forces.

Denmark: About 870 women make up 5 percent of Denmark's regular military personnel (excluding conscripts). Plans call for recruiting more women volunteers. Entry-level physical requirements, which have been a great barrier to women applicants, have been modified to allow more women to join.

France: About 10,600 women make up 7.5 percent of the force. French officials are considering opening all posts to women except those involving direct and prolonged contact with hostile forces; flying carrier-borne aircraft; and service aboard submarines, in marine or commando units, and in some gendarmerie posts.

Germany: About 3,800 women used to make up 24 percent of the German military's medical service. Another 37 women served in military bands. These were the only two branches where women are allowed to serve -- German law prohibited them from rendering service involving the use of arms.

However this changed recently.

In Feb 2000 - the European High Council ruled, after the challenge of a woman (Tanja Kreil) who wanted to enter the army as a maintence technian, that it is against European law that women are not allowed in nearly all military branches. Therefore the German Minister of Defense had to evaluate the practice concerning the recruiting of women.
As of 2001 women can enter ALL branches and careers in the German military- starting with being armed up to being 'Kampfschwimmer' the german equal to combat divers (with SEAL like duty). A prerequisite is that the nessecary legal changes are finished. Minister of Defense Rudolf Scharping at a Press conference said:
"In principle there are no exclusions for women in the German Federal Armed Forces ", stressed the Minister. Possible application limitations could arise only as a result of the fact that women are not interested at all in certain careers. So far country widely approximately 2,000 inquiries from women have been written to the recruitment centers," said Minister Scharping.

German Defence Force

"If clarity exists over the law changes, the number of the prospective women will rise surely. It is clear that women would have to bring the same requirements as their male colleagues to all careers. Additionally the German Federal Armed Forces have a certain welfare service obligation, since women would not like to serve according to own specification in small number in certain Units. Subject to the punctual adjustment of the legal basis, the first enlistments for NCOS and crews to 2 January 2001, for officer candidates to 2 July 2001 are to be made."

As of 2005 the following figures apply:
Army: about 7200 women (600 Officers, 3600 NCOs, 1100 enlisted, 1900 Officers and NCO trainees)
Air Force: about 2350 women (240 Officers, 1300 NCOs, 210 enlisted, 600 Officers- and NCO-trainees)
Navy: about 1600 women (150 Officers, 770 NCOs, 180 enlisted, 500 Officers and NCO trainees)
Medical Service: about 5600 women.
This is about 16.000 women in the Armed Forces and 6,3 % of all Career or Shortterm-Soldiers. (Remember Germany still drafts enlisted soldiers)
Many thanks for this update to a fine young woman who is now a 2nd Lt. in the German Army - whose last command post was that of a tank platoon leader where she commanded over 4 Leopard A5 Tanks, 4 male NCO's and 12 enlisted men.

Greece: The 717 women in uniform make up about 3.75 percent of the Greek armed forces. So far women officer nurses are the only high-ranked women. Last March, three became brigadier generals. Women originally were only allowed to attend the Military School of Nursing Officers, but in 1990 were first admitted to other military schools and academies.

Italy: Women do not serve in Italy's armed forces, but the parliament is considering legislation to allow women to serve. Public opinion supports this bill, which is expected to pass later this year. Recruiting will begin in 1999.

The Netherlands: About 4,000 women make up about 7.2 percent of the Dutch armed forces. This summer, the first woman will complete the Air Force Advanced Staff Officer Course and, for the first time, the Navy will promote a woman to the rank of captain. In August, a woman officer will become the second to command a mine countermeasures vessel.


Norway: Officials aim to increase women's presence in the armed forces from the current 5 percent to 7.5 percent by the year 2005. Plans include encouraging recruitment by enhancing military women's quality of life.

Portugal: About 2,200 women make up about 5 percent of Portugal's armed forces. Women have served on Portuguese Navy ships since 1993, but they are prohibited from serving in some combatant specialties.

Spain: About 2,400 women make up 2.3 percent of Spain's armed forces. Women officers and NCOs can apply for any post, but women troops and sailors are prohibited from tactical and operational postings in legion units, special operations and paratroop units, submarines, marine landing forces, and small ships without appropriate accommodations.

Turkey: Women are only admitted in the Turkish armed forces as officers, not as NCOs or enlisted personnel. About 680 women officers now serve in the Turkish army, navy, air force and gendarmerie. Sixty women attended military academies last year; 274 are attending this year.


United Kingdom: About 2,890 women make up 7.8 percent of the Royal Navy, with 745 at sea aboard 50 ships. About 73 percent of all Navy posts are open to women. The British army's 7,432 women comprise 6.7 percent of the force; as of April 1, women can serve in 70 percent of the army's slots - - up from 47 percent. About 5,000 women make up 8.9 percent of the Royal Air Force. About 20 are pilots and 26 are navigators. Women remain excluded from the Royal Marine Commandos, the Infantry, Royal Armoured Corps and the Royal Air Force Regiment. Officials are reviewing opening further posts to women, including on submarines and as mine clearance divers.

United States: About 200,000 women make up 14 percent of the active duty force; 88.2 percent of the military's 1.1 million jobs are open to women. About 225,000 women serve in the reserve components and comprise 15.5 percent of their strength.

Sources for the above data - "American Forces Press Service" - press release - article by Linda D. Kozaryn, date unknown. a Lt. of Germany, the Defense Link Press Releases and my personal files.

Please note: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is displayed without profit or payment for those who have expressed an interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. Nothing on this site is for sale nor is it a commercial venture of any kind - it is a one person page for, and about, military women - by one retired military woman.

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