Most people living in the UK will have seen the British Army’s new (and controversial) recruitment campaign.  You may have also noticed the equality and diversity theme throughout.  This article is going to look at the importance of equality and diversity in The British Army and why it’s just as important in an ordinary workplace.

Can I Be Gay In The Army. Equality and Diversity - The Military CEO

One of the campaign advertisements

The Recruitment Campaign

In early 2018 The British Army released a campaign to recruit more people from a diversity of genders, sexualities, ethnicities and faiths.  In a series of animations released on social media, the campaign positively answers questions such as “Can I be gay in the army?” and “What if I get emotional in the army?”.  General Sir Nick Carter, the chief of the general staff, said The Army needed to change how it recruited and looked after trainees. Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he denied claims that the “This is belonging 2018” campaign showed the army had “gone soft”.

I agree that the campaign doesn’t mean that The Army has gone soft. I do think however that it shows The Army is moving in the right direction to adopt its equality and diversity policies.

Whether the campaign has been successful will be difficult to measure but it depends in the way you measure its success.  If you are measuring it from a recruitment point of view, then i’m not sure if appealing to minorities is the best way to deal with The British Army’s recruitment crisis. However if the aim of the campaign is to convince the public that as an organisation we’re making an effort to ‘move with the times’ then maybe yes, it might have been successful.

It is however my opinion that the campaign IS representative of our values and standards. Read more about our values and standards in an article about The British Army’s New Leadership Code.

Regardless, any publicity is good publicity, so let’s look at the idea of equality and diversity in the workplace.

What Does Equality And Diversity In The British Army Mean?

A Harvard Business Review article recognises the link between good leadership and embracing equality and diversity in the workplace.  But before we even begin to understand why we embrace it, the first consideration should be that it’s the law!

The 2010 Equality Act protects employees against discrimination against the following things:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender Reassignment
  • Marriage and Civil Partnership
  • Race
  • Religion or Belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual Orientation

Can The British Army Discriminate?

Yes It Can.

The British Army can, and does (in certain circumstances), sensitively discriminate against the following things:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Sex

Briefly summarised, age is discriminated against in that there are limits on recruitment ages. Disability is discriminated against in certain circumstances when someone would not be able to carry out their duty as a soldier. And finally, sex is discriminated against as females are currently unable to perform certain roles in the military. Sex is the most controversial of the 3 at the moment with females able to fill more and more roles they were previously unable to.

In certain instances The Army can also enforce dress and appearance regulations. Great care is taken however to try and prevent an infringement on people’s religious beliefs.

Why Is Equality And Diversity Important In The Army?

There are many reasons that come to me when thinking about this question.  But in every instance it is my opinion that diversity allows for a more effective fighting unit and team. Read my article that explores the equality in the pay structure in the British Army.

Listed below are just a few of the reasons:

Understanding Other Cultures

A soldier that is able to associate with a culture that the British Army may be operating in provides a huge advantage. Whether it’s due to the soldier’s upbringing, religion or region of upbringing; being able to empathise with local nationals and understand local traditions can often be more valuable than any other type of intelligence.

The British Army talk to local nationals in Afghanistan, 2008. Equality and Diversity

The British Army talk to local nationals in Afghanistan, 2008.

Speaking Other Languages

For many of the reasons listed previously some soldiers are multi-lingual. In non-English speaking regions we are required to use interpreters. Having a soldier on your patrol that speaks the native language is invaluable!

A Diversity Of Skills

I don’t need 30 soldiers that are expert shots. The British Army requires expert medics, cooks and engineers too. It requires people that are compassionate, people that are strong and people that are clever. If you know someone who is an expert at all of the above and more, send that person my way – but the point is that different people of different cultures, religions and sexes may be better at different things.

A Diversity Of Experiences

Some of my soldiers have been in The Army since 16 whilst others have held civilian jobs for 10+ years before joining. This not only gives us the ability to understand the differences when working with civilians but also take advantage of those skills learnt, and in some cases mastered, before joining The Army.

Because It’s The Right Thing To Do

As an army we preach morals, ethics and values. As a leader how can we preach values in certain instances and not in arguably the most important instance.

What You Should Do As A Leader To Encourage Equality And Diversity

There are many things you can do as a leader. Some are easy and some much more difficult.

Recruit Equally and Diversely

This is the easiest of all if you’re in the position to do it.  But practice what you preach and do what the heading says, recruit equally and diversely.

Challenge Inappropriate Language and Behaviour

This ties nicely into the saying “the standard you walk past is the standard you accept”. I’ll let the previous Australian Chief of Army Lieutenant General David Morrison explain. This is one of my favourite videos of all time when teaching values and standards.

Manage Banter

As a leader ensure that you’re very clear about where the line is between harassment or bullying and banter. This leads nicely on to enforcing another of my favourite phrases.

The intent of what you do or say does not matter, it is the impact of what you do that you’ll be judged on.

Encourage Inclusivity

As every post i’ve written suggests, a manager has employees, a leader has a team. You are just one person so it is imperative you encourage an inclusive culture and expect it of every single one of your team.

Have Your Say

Equality and diversity in the armed forces is controversial in almost every army around the world. Do you think that there still remains a place for discrimination in the armed forces and to what extent? Let me know in Your Thoughts or comment below and as always i’ll reply and may even elaborate on your thought in a future post.

-The Military CEO