Special Report

Countries With the Most Women in Military Service

MTMCOINS / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images

Currently, Denmark allows women to serve in its military on a voluntary basis only, while men are obligated to enlist for a minimum of four months. However, Denmark’s Minister of Defense recently proposed implementing mandatory service for women in the country’s armed forces, as well. Norway also set a precedent within NATO in 2013 by enforcing compulsory conscription for women, and Sweden, a non-NATO member, followed suit in 2017.

While Scandinavian countries like Norway and Sweden, as well as nations such as Israel, Morocco, and North Korea, are among the few worldwide that regularly draft women into their armed forces, many women in numerous other countries enlist voluntarily in their respective military services.

To identify the countries with the highest representation of women serving in their armed forces, 24/7 Wall St. analyzed data from NATO and various media outlets. This list is limited to countries with reliable data and may not be exhaustive. Out of the 50 nations surveyed, we found 26 countries where women make up more than 10% of military personnel. Details on the roles open to women were sourced from NATO and multiple media outlets. Figures on active-duty personnel came from GlobalFirepower.com, a website that provides annual updates on military statistics.

For over a century, women have played roles in the military, but were typically limited to nursing and administrative duties. However, during World War I, there was a significant increase in women’s involvement in the military across Europe, the United States and Canada. During this period, women assumed more diverse roles, serving as ambulance drivers, photo analysts, translators, weather forecasters, and in some cases, even combat soldiers.

Women have traditionally made up only a small percentage of total active personnel, with the armed forces of most nations consisting of less than 5% women at the beginning of the 20th century. Despite this, over the past two decades, the average number of women in full-time military roles has doubled in NATO nations, thanks to legislative changes and court rulings that have expanded the range of roles available to women.

In the last twenty years, many countries have progressively removed obstacles to women’s participation in combat roles. Among the 26 countries where women represent over 10% of military personnel, most have eliminated restrictions on women serving in frontline positions.

Here are the countries with the most women in military service:

26. United Kingdom

Source: ikholwadia / iStock via Getty Images
  • Estimated pct. of women in the military: 11%
  • Year of estimate, source: 2019, NATO
  • Combat roles: No restrictions – all active duty positions are open to women
  • All active-duty personnel: 194,000

25. Netherlands

Source: mihaiulia / iStock via Getty Images
  • Estimated pct. of women in the military: 11%
  • Year of estimate, source: 2019, NATO
  • Combat roles: No restrictions – all active duty positions are open to women
  • All active-duty personnel: 35,000

24. Slovakia

Source: slezo / Flickr
  • Estimated pct. of women in the military: 12%
  • Year of estimate, source: 2019, NATO
  • Combat roles: No restrictions – all active duty positions are open to women
  • All active-duty personnel: 13,000

23. Portugal

Source: Raul_Mellado / iStock via Getty Images
  • Estimated pct. of women in the military: 12%
  • Year of estimate, source: 2019, NATO
  • Combat roles: No restrictions – all active duty positions are open to women
  • All active-duty personnel: 27,000

22. Lithuania

Source: ewg3D / E+ via Getty Images
  • Estimated pct. of women in the military: 12%
  • Year of estimate, source: 2019, NATO
  • Combat roles: No restrictions – all active duty positions are open to women
  • All active-duty personnel: 16,000

21. Germany

Source: ewg3D / iStock via Getty Images
  • Estimated pct. of women in the military: 12%
  • Year of estimate, source: 2019, NATO
  • Combat roles: No restrictions – all active duty positions are open to women
  • All active-duty personnel: 184,000

20. Spain

Source: ManuelVelasco / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images
  • Estimated pct. of women in the military: 13%
  • Year of estimate, source: 2019, NATO
  • Combat roles: No restrictions – all active duty positions are open to women
  • All active-duty personnel: 120,000

19. Czechia

Source: Chalabala / iStock via Getty Images
  • Estimated pct. of women in the military: 13%
  • Year of estimate, source: 2019, NATO
  • Combat roles: No restrictions – all active duty positions are open to women
  • All active-duty personnel: 26,000

18. Croatia

Source: Goran Jakus Photography / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Estimated pct. of women in the military: 13%
  • Year of estimate, source: 2019, NATO
  • Combat roles: No restrictions – all active duty positions are open to women
  • All active-duty personnel: 15,000

17. Taiwan

Source: pixgrapher / Getty Images
  • Estimated pct. of women in the military: 13.6%
  • Year of estimate, source: 2017, Taipei Times
  • Combat roles: Limited
  • All active-duty personnel: 170,000

16. Norway

Source: Photo Beto / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images
  • Estimated pct. of women in the military: 14%
  • Year of estimate, source: 2019, NATO
  • Combat roles: No restrictions – all active duty positions are open to women
  • All active-duty personnel: 23,000

15. Albania

Source: Mlenny / iStock via Getty Images
  • Estimated pct. of women in the military: 14%
  • Year of estimate, source: 2019, NATO
  • Combat roles: Restrictions on women serving in the Navy, Special Forces and in Pilot positions.
  • All active-duty personnel: 8,000

14. Slovenia

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Estimated pct. of women in the military: 15%
  • Year of estimate, source: 2019, NATO
  • Combat roles: No restrictions – and no restrictions that apply to operations
  • All active-duty personnel: 7,000

13. Latvia

Source: Uldis Zile / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Estimated pct. of women in the military: 16%
  • Year of estimate, source: 2019, NATO
  • Combat roles: No restrictions – all active duty positions are open to women
  • All active-duty personnel: 6,500

12. France

Source: Gwengoat / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Estimated pct. of women in the military: 16%
  • Year of estimate, source: 2019, NATO
  • Combat roles: No restrictions – all active duty positions are open to women
  • All active-duty personnel: 205,000

11. Canada

Source: CatEyePerspective / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Estimated pct. of women in the military: 16%
  • Year of estimate, source: 2019, NATO
  • Combat roles: No restrictions – all active duty positions are open to women
  • All active-duty personnel: 70,000

10. Bulgaria

Source: martin-dm / iStock via Getty Images
  • Estimated pct. of women in the military: 16%
  • Year of estimate, source: 2019, NATO
  • Combat roles: No restrictions – all active duty positions are open to women
  • All active-duty personnel: 25,000

9. United States

Source: SDI Productions / E+ via Getty Images
  • Estimated pct. of women in the military: 17%
  • Year of estimate, source: 2019, NATO
  • Combat roles: No restrictions – all active duty positions are open to women
  • All active-duty personnel: 1,390,000

8. New Zealand

Source: Jimbo_Cymru / iStock via Getty Images
  • Estimated pct. of women in the military: 18%
  • Year of estimate, source: 2019, NATO
  • Combat roles: No restrictions – all active duty positions are open to women
  • All active-duty personnel: 9,

7. Australia

Source: Anjuman Sharma / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Estimated pct. of women in the military: 19%
  • Year of estimate, source: 2019, NATO
  • Combat roles: No restrictions – all active duty positions are open to women
  • All active-duty personnel: 60,500

6. Greece

Source: SanerG / iStock via Getty Images
  • Estimated pct. of women in the military: 19%
  • Year of estimate, source: 2019, NATO
  • Combat roles: women are not permitted to enter the Naval Special Force
  • All active-duty personnel: 130,000

5. Moldova

Source: Calin Stan / iStock via Getty Images
  • Estimated pct. of women in the military: 20%
  • Year of estimate, source: 2019, NATO
  • Combat roles: No restrictions – all active duty positions are open to women
  • All active-duty personnel: 6,000

4. Hungary

Source: PEDRE / E+ via Getty Images
  • Estimated pct. of women in the military: 20%
  • Year of estimate, source: 2019, NATO
  • Combat roles: No restrictions – and no restrictions that apply to operations
  • All active-duty personnel: 23,000

3. South Africa

Source: JacquesKloppers / iStock via Getty Images
  • Estimated pct. of women in the military: 24%
  • Year of estimate, source: 2018, Washington Post
  • Combat roles: Limited
  • All active-duty personnel: 40,200

2. Israel

Source: fotofrog / iStock via Getty Images
  • Estimated pct. of women in the military: 38%
  • Year of estimate, source: 2020, The Marker
  • Combat roles: 86% of roles, including front-line ground combat, open and more to open in the next 2 yrs
  • All active-duty personnel: 173,000

1. North Korea

Source: alexkuehni / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Estimated pct. of women in the military: 40%
  • Year of estimate, source: Unclear, Army Technology
  • Combat roles: Unclear
  • All active-duty personnel: 12,000,000

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