British Army challenges gender stereotypes and celebrates progress

 July 08, 2019

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The British Army's International Women’s Day campaign aimed to raise awareness among the public, but particularly female audiences and their gatekeepers, about the careers and opportunities available to all within the Army. The campaign aimed to bust traditional gender stereotypes and myths to highlight how far the Army has come in achieving greater gender balance and how they've created a legacy for the future that normalises gender parity.

An exciting book launch and an inspiring conference

The Army’s International Women’s Day Campaign ran from early March through to Mothering Sunday Day at the end of March, however most activity and digital media content was concentrated during the week of International Women’s Day.

British Army - International Women's Day

The campaign launched at the National Army Museum with a Butterfly Book launch of My Mummy is a Soldier. The book, a social enterprise initiative supported by the Army to break down gender stereotypes among children, is widely available at Waterstones, Amazon and The Sandhurst Trust. The book is also part of the National Literacy Trust ‘Words for Work’ campaign to be used in primary schools across the UK as part of the programme. This has created a legacy among young people in which there is a lasting impact on breaking ‘traditional’ gender stereotypes around the careers and roles available to women in the Army.

Impressive video highlighting how British Army celebrated International Women's Day

Timed to coincide with International Women’s Day, the Army held an annual Servicewomen’s Conference themed on ‘resilience’ with key note speakers including Dame Kelly Holmes OBE. The conference aimed to engage, inspire and empower the Army servicewomen’s cohort and encouraged attendance from chains of command, both male and female, to be part of the conversation.

As well as the major events, smaller International Women’s Day events were also hosted across Army units throughout the week in celebration of the day. For example, at Headquarters Home Command a number of impressive speakers addressed the engaged audiences: Susannah Streeter, BBC Defence Correspondent; Deborah Haynes, Sky TV Defence Correspondent; Captain Gemma Rowland, Welsh International Rugby player. Additionally, members of the British Army were invited to support further events outside of the organisation such as Lieutenant Colonel Deborah Taylor being invited to speak at an International Women’s Day panel discussion to the UK's Channel 4 staff chaired by the newsreader and presenter, Cathy Newman.

Successful social media campaign  

British Army - International Women's Day

International Women’s Day themed posts featured across the British Army digital media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube and were designed to amplify the #BalanceforBetter campaign and showcase the experience, work, achievements and role models of women,and men, working together in the Army. The #IWD2019 and #BalanceforBetter hashtags were used alongside British Army hashtags across social media posts. Furthermore, elements of the Army's campaign were reported in wider public media including The Times, The Financial Times, BFBS, BBC World News and via SKY News Correspondent and BBC correspondent social media accounts.

Celebrating real human stories and real role models

The British Army IWD campaign was interesting because it used a broad spectrum of real human stories and role models from the most junior levels through to the most senior figures in the Army, highlighting the achievements and lived experience of women and men across the Army. In doing so, the stories highlighted the culture and work of the British Army to progress gender parity agenda and normalise inclusivity.

The British Army's activity is innovative because the campaign activity created a legacy for the future. ‘My Mummy is a Soldier’ is a book that will forge change as it is rolled out in schools across the UK, and the support the British Army gave to the book will have a lasting and continued impact on challenging gender stereotypes around traditionally ‘male’ careers in the future.

British Army - International Women's Day

The campaign used International Women’s Day to bring a spotlight onto the work and people of the British Army and the opportunities available. Innovatively, it also exploited the timing of further notable events in the March calendar such as National Apprenticeship Week, Mother’s Day and World Book Day to amplify their IWD campaign and message.

British Army - International Women's Day

Furthermore, ministerial support from Defence Minister, Tobias Ellwood at the launch of ‘My Mummy is a Soldier’ and also from Secretary of State, Gavin Williamson’s contribution to the sexual violence video, further endorse the Army’s messages regarding gender inclusion. Meanwhile, support from high profile and respected figures like Dame Kelly Holmes, Susannah Streeter and Deborah Haynes also helped raise the profile of the campaign. Collaboration and partnering with further organisations and agencies such as the Police Service, the UN and Channel 4 also promoted the impact of the campaign and the British Army’s commitment.

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