Special Report

Countries With the Most Women Serving in the Military

Denmark recently announced plans to undertake compulsory military conscription for women, aiming to boost the size of its armed forces after a NATO report criticized the country’s investment in land and sea defenses. In 2013, Norway became the first NATO nation to make military conscription mandatory for women, followed by non-NATO member Sweden in 2017. (Here are all NATO members ranked by military power.)

Although these Scandinavian nations are some of only a handful of countries in the world – including Israel, Morocco, and North Korea – that regularly conscript women, women in many countries worldwide volunteer  to serve in their country’s armed forces. 

To find the countries with the most women serving in the military, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed NATO data as well as data from several media sources. The list includes only countries for which we found reliable Information and is far from comprehensive. Of the 50 nations we were able to find such statistics, we listed the 26 countries where women make up more than 10% of military personnel. Information on which roles are open to women also came from NATO and different media sources. Active-duty personnel figures came from GlobalFirepower.com, an annually-updated military statistics website.

Although women have held military positions in many countries for over a century, their roles were mostly limited to nursing and administration. In World War I there was a major increase in women military personnel across European nations as well as in the United States and Canada. These women served not only as nurses but as ambulance drivers, photo analysts, translators, weather forecasters, and in some cases, combat soldiers. (These are the greatest women in military history.)

Still, women have generally constituted a small fraction of total active personnel, with most nations’ armed forces composed of under 5% women at the turn of the 20th century. In the last two decades, however, the average number of women in full-time military positions has doubled among NATO nations, as laws and court rulings have opened the doors for women to seek a wider variety of roles. 

Many nations have also increasingly opened combat positions to women in the last 20 years. Of the 26 nations where women make up over 10% of military personnel, the vast majority now have no restrictions on women serving in roles that would put them on the front lines. 

Click here to see countries with the most women serving in the military.

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