Socio-cultural dynamics in gender and military contexts: Seeking and understanding change


Changing the culture of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) is a high priority so that all members feel respected and included and do not experience discrimination, harassment, or any form of sexual misconduct. This article looks back at the CAF experience with gender integration to see what it tells us about what should be done today. Although policies and practices have changed, too often, some women and men continue to experience discrimination, harassment, and sexual assault.  Based on past experience, this article suggests that thinking about different ways of understanding culture in the CAF is important in paving the way for a more inclusive experience for all members.


In response to a 2015 external review and subsequent allegations of sexual misconduct, high priority has been placed on socio-cultural change in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). Canada’s Defence Policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, reinforces this priority, calling for a culture of respect and inclusion that supports gender equality and a workforce that leverages the diversity of Canadian society. Notwithstanding multiple efforts targeting diversity, inclusion, sexual misconduct elimination, and integration of gender perspectives into policy, planning, and military operations, understanding and monitoring culture and culture change is a persistent challenge. Drawing from historical documents and social science research on culture and gender in the Canadian military, this article presents an analysis of socio-cultural shifts since 1970. The analysis illustrates the importance of understanding the complexity of cultural influences and describes how cultural discourses have shaped responses to gender difference. Related narratives are frequently adopted at face value in the absence of comprehensive analysis of cultural influences. Research has made valuable contributions to better understanding and monitoring of Canadian military culture; however, historical evidence suggests the meaning of gender integration has not been fully understood or achieved. This analysis underscores the importance of critical and comprehensive analyses to support aspirations for social inclusion.

Full Reference

Davis, Karen D., 2022. Socio-cultural dynamics in gender and military contexts: Seeking and understanding change. Journal of Military, Veteran and Family Health, 8(1), pp.66-74. https://doi.org/10.3138/jmvfh-2021-0088