It wouldn’t be fair to say the military hasn’t changed in recent years – there has been progress.
But a report that a “significant number” of people in the military have suffered “bullying, discrimination and harassment, including sexual”, is a damning assessment of how much further it needs to go to catch up with modern society.
It is made worse by the fact that the report was put together by one of its own, Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, not an outsider who could be dismissed as ‘not understanding the unique military culture’.
It is encouraging that Wigston will take over as head of the RAF next month, putting him in the perfect position to personally see through his recommendations.
He doesn’t hold back, describing senior officers as a “pack of white middle-aged men” and suggests they represent a generation “not used to having people from other diversity groups serving alongside them”.
No wonder the first female Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt, herself a naval reservist, was quick to accept all the recommendations.
Service chiefs will write to all senior commanders ordering them to implement the changes, and the complaints process will be improved so that serious allegations are investigated more quickly.
There are more women in top military jobs than ever before – in February the RAF appointed its first female ‘three star’ to the rank of Air Marshal, the highest position yet to be held by a woman.
But they remain the exception, and all the very top positions are still held by men and have only ever been held by men – that doesn’t look like changing for a number of years yet.
It would be wrong to focus entirely on the most senior roles.
They might set the tone for an organisation, but it is the middle ranks who are often the most visible, and the middle ranks who will provide the next leaders.
Last year, entry into the Royal Marines was opened up to women, meaning that for the first time ever, all roles in the British military were open to female recruits, including the special forces.
It was biggest step forward since 2016 when the ban on women serving on the frontline was lifted.
But it still came many years after some close allies made similar progress.
As a ‘bottom-fed’ organisation, it will always take many years for changes to filter through the armed forces and some leniency must be given to what is a unique career in that regard.
Although lateral recruitment into senior jobs has been opened up for some roles, cyber for example, that just isn’t a goer for infantry positions, or fighter jet pilots.
You can’t leave your job as a teacher, aged 42, and go straight into a senior frontline command role for example. That would be dangerous for everyone.
The Ministry of Defence points out the great majority of the armed forces serve “with honour and distinction” and they absolutely do.
But the military will be even better for these changes and will only be able to truly protect Britain if it properly reflects the society it serves.
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