As of 28 February 2019, the strength of the Permanent Defence Force stood at 8,857 Whole Time Equivalent (WTE) personnel. Of this some 6.7%, or 596 personnel, were female broken down as follows:
- Army: 498 Female Personnel
- Air Corps: 31 Female Personnel
- Naval Service: 67 Female Personnel
The Government is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for men and women throughout the Defence Forces and to the full participation by women in all aspects of Defence Forces activities. This is underlined by a commitment in the Programme for Government to increase the level of female participation in the Defence Forces.
Unlike some other national armed forces, the Defence Forces have no restrictions with regard to the assignment of men or women to the full range of operational and administrative duties. Women, therefore, play a full and meaningful role in all aspects of Defence Forces operations at home and overseas.
In line with these policies and commitments, a number of initiatives have been implemented to increase the level of female participation in the Defence Forces. For example:
- Special consideration is paid to women as a target group for recruitment and within the general recruitment framework. There are specific initiatives which focus on potential female recruits such as female-focused advertising, visits to female schools by Defence Forces personnel, creation of female specific recruitment videos and targeted social media advertising.
- The introduction of best practices in recruitment such as the adjustment of physical standards for female applicants and a balanced composition between men and women on recruitment and selection boards.
- A Gender Advisor has been appointed to promote gender equality policies and training within the Defence Forces. The Defence Forces are committed to gender equality and employ a gender perspective in all policies and regulations.
- A Defence Forces Women's Network has also been established with the aim of increasing the participation of female personnel at all levels of the organisation. The Network allows women to identify any actual or perceived barriers to participation, which then feed into wider HR retention policies.
Over the lifetime of the White Paper on Defence, further projects will be progressed to ensure the development and promotion of strategies that continue to support increased female participation in the Defence Forces.