A shortage of women in the ranks of the Canadian Armed Forces has prompted new recruiting ideas that include adding shorter, tighter skirts, more stylish shoes, and cringeworthy social media campaigns featuring slogans like, “My bling are my medals."
Dry heaving yet?
If not, maybe a video concept featuring a woman tossing a grenade, accompanied by the slogan, “Of course I throw like a girl but I never miss,” will do the trick.
This. This is what three years of work yielded. A “Tiger Team” whose sole three-year mission it was to pinpoint where the military could do a better job of enticing women to enlist came up with referring to medals as “bling.”
We condemn you for a job never done, Tiger Team.
Today, women make up just 16 percent of the Canadian armed services, a number Canadian military officials hope to grow to 25 percent by 2026, according to study documents obtained by the Ottawa Citizen.
“Yet systemic barriers remain in place,” the Tiger Team wrote, "making the military a less than desirable choice for the majority of young Canadian women.”
Substantive causes for the dearth of women in the ranks — the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder and sexual harassment, as well as the lack of available technical jobs — were mentioned as such barriers, yet these legitimate reasons still played second fiddle to a heavy emphasis on fashion and video production.
“That’s not an especially flattering portrayal of female values,” National Post columnist Marni Soupcoff wrote in response to the study. Soupcoff compared the approach to “comedian Elayne Boosler’s quip about her belief that females are capable of engaging in deadly combat: All the general has to do is walk over to the women and say, ‘You see the enemy over there? They say you look fat in those uniforms.’”
To address their oddly prioritized fashion concerns the Tiger Team took aim at the Canadian Armed Forces Dress Committee, a decidedly style-free group “composed of middle-aged males whose outlook is not reflective of current trends among the target demographic,” the report said. The team concluded that instituting a uniform decision-making staff that incorporates the same 25 percent makeup as the military’s female recruiting goal should correct the deficiency of modernized threads.
Other suggestions, meanwhile, include marketing campaigns that depict a healthy quality of life-work balance, which approximately 14 individuals in military history have ever achieved.
To demonstrate, the Tiger Team discussed a video concept that begins with a woman removing her military helmet. In a shocking twist, she finds herself at an event in which “male and female co-workers gather and agree to having a camp fire at a sandy beach,” the report said.
Unable to resist those internationally acclaimed Canadian beach vibes, the group transitions to grilling “marshmallows, laughing and relaxing” — as one invariably does whenever marshmallows are present.
“They may be overestimating the female appetite for after-work gatherings that resemble summer camp singalongs,” Soupcoff argued. “But is this really what recruits would find once they became members of the military?”
Studies suggest this is, in fact, the exact experience service members have in the military — especially in Canada, where soldiers can’t turn around without being blindsided by a tropical setting.
At the conclusion of their very own Corona commercial, a male coworker drives one of his female colleagues home, where he waits outside until she safely closes the door. This, the Tiger Team suggests, would demonstrate “trust in coworkers.”
What the Tiger Team doesn’t know, however, is that these scenarios are strikingly reminiscent of some of the worst Armed Forces Network commercial programming anyone who has ever deployed has had the displeasure of viewing.
Back to the drawing board, Tiger Team.
J.D. Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.