Updated: 26-Mar-2002 Committee on Women in NATO Forces

Special Edition




The Danish Armed Forces (DAF) have a long history of employing women. They have been present in the Danish Ground Observer Corps since its creation in 1934. Women joined the Women's Army Corps and Women's Naval Corps in 1946, and the Women' Air Force in 1953. The 1962 Act passed by Parliament enabled women to join the Danish Armed Forces on a voluntary basis. The only stipulation was they could not serve in combat units. The enlistment of women as privates and NCOs began in 1971and the military academies opened their doors to women in 1974. An equal opportunity law was passed in 1978, addressing the issue of women in combat. Studies and trials were conducted by the DAF, yielding satisfactory results, which opened all functional specialities to women.

Traditionally, compulsory service has been only for men in Denmark. But since a new statute was passed on 19 February 1998, women can now voluntarily enrol on the same terms as men if they sign a contract. This new option makes it possible for women to familiarise themselves with the military environment and its operating conditions, without having to commit to several years of service. Hereby, these women will attain insight to encourage them to pursue a military career.


Women are integrated in the Services under the command of the Chief of Defence. They work and train with their male counterparts and are subject to the same chains of command, standards of performance and discipline. There is no compulsory service for women in Denmark. But as indicated above, it is possible for women to serve under the same terms as conscripts.

General Policies

A DAF committee exists which focuses on equal opportunity issues. This committee prepared a Chief of Defence Action Plan in 2000 describing initiatives to promote up to the year 2004. The long-term purpose of the Action Plan is to create an organisation that is capable of drawing on many different people with varied resources and different competence. This implies that the resources that women bring with them into the DAF are considered as potentialities rather than as obstacles. It is believed that the DAF will have more opportunities and will improve the quality of work when it is capable of using the fact that the organisation consists of different people with different resources. The Action Plan focuses on three factors that are playing a major role in the effort to obtain this objective: management, recruitment and the ability to retain the women once recruited.

As a part of the Danish Armed Forces Family Policy and in order to minimise the strains on family life, all personnel are given as much influence over their own work situation and duty cycle as possible. This includes the possibility to temporarily downgrade one's career without hampering the possibility of future career advancements.


All posts are available to women in the Danish Armed Forces. The highest rank attained by a woman so far is Lieutenant Colonel or Commander Senior Grade (Navy equivalent). Admission requirements in the DAF are the same for women and men, and women have the same opportunities as their male colleagues if they desire a career in the DAF.


Women make up 5% (862) of the total force. There are currently 98 officers, 191 NCOs, and 571 privates. During peacetime operations, the DAF consists of 16.271 military personnel on regular service and approximately 4200 conscripts per year. Out of the 4200 conscripts, there are 144 women serving on terms similar to those of conscripts.

Women serve in combat roles and train and work on equal terms with men. The combat capability of the mixed gender units is equal to that of other units. Trials in the combat arms areas were conducted from 1985 to 1987, and as of June 1 1988, all functions and units in the Danish Army were opened to women.


The single authority responsible for personnel recruitment in the DAF is the Armed Forces Defence Conscription and Recruitment (DCR), which recruits conscripts and voluntary personnel. In addition, they are responsible for recruiting personnel for officer education and training (including pilots), reserve officer education, privates' education, members of the Danish Reaction Brigade (DRB), and also personnel for the DAF Health Services. The DCR co-operates with the Ministry of Home Affairs

The number of applicants and recurring engagement for the different military education programs has, during 1999 and the beginning of 2000, been the lowest ever. The reason for the low percentage of women applying for education in the Armed Forces can potentially be found in the development of increased opportunities on the civilian labour market and the fact that the percentage of youth has fallen over the past few years. Additionally, the cultural barrier needs to be removed in order to get more women to apply for a job in a male dominated working environment. A think tank consisting of specially appointed resource personnel has been established as a result of this recognition. The purpose of the think tank is to support the work of the action plan and one of its main tasks is to come up with ideas for actions that will turn this negative trend into a positive development.


Equal opportunity applies to women and men. All personnel have the same rights to apply for and attend the Defence Academy and regular officer and NCO schools. When selecting a path to further education, only professional qualifications and needs are considered, not the applicant's gender.

In 2000, the physical requirements were revised, taking into account that men generally have greater physical strength than women do. Differentiation in physical requirements is therefore believed necessary to give women equal opportunities. This is possible in functions where a specific physical form is not a pre-condition for performing the job. Therefore, the introduction of the new physical requirements implies a distinction between basic requirements and physical requirements related to specific, physically-demanding functions. The basic requirements will be differentiated according to gender, where as the physical requirements related to specific functions, will be the same irrespective of gender. It is expected that the new physical requirements will make it possible to increase the number of women recruited for military training. It is also expected that these requirements will make it easier for women actively engaged in military duty to meet the physical demands expected of them.


Danish women have participated in various missions abroad. Generally, there is no gender-related differentiation between roles and functions performed by women and men. Women are treated and regarded as normal soldiers who are expected to perform as trained and to participate in all operations on equal terms with their male counterparts.

The DIB, a mobilisation unit constructed and trained for international operations only, is an alternative way for military members to serve in Crisis response operations. The permanent staff and conscripts who have completed their military service are permitted to serve in the DIB, but members must first apply for admittance. The DIB also consists of civilians, including doctors and nurses.

Recent and Projected Developments

A policy concerning harassment has recently been developed, stating that harassment of any kind will not be tolerated. This includes sexual harassment. Mutual respect is a fundamental principle behind The Personnel Policy of the Danish Armed Forces. This means that all employees immediately must put an end to offensive behaviour when they see it occurring.

At the beginning of 2000, the Danish Armed Forces implemented a horizontal career structure for officers on higher and highest middle rank level (Captain and Major). This enables the officers to choose a career in a specialised area through in-service training and as an alternative to a vertical career through higher education.

The Danish Armed Forces are developing a new appraisal interview system. It has been decided that this system must be mainstreamed. This project is designed to work as a pilot project in order to gain experience with the process of mainstreaming.

The Danish authorities have just recently addressed the issue of civilian recognition of military training. The Minister of Defence and the Minister of Education are in the process of discussing these matters in order to find a better solution regarding the transfer of credits from military training to the system of higher education. These discussions will hopefully yield a co-ordinated and uniform system based on both formal and personal qualifications obtained through military training and service. It is also hoped that these will have a positive effect on civilian society's recognition of the merits of military training in general.


A major problem for the Danish Armed Forces is its inability to recruit and retain women. This insufficiency is further reflected in the inability of the DAF to appoint women to positions of leadership. Furthermore, during the past four years, the statistics have not been moving in a positive direction. The Danish Armed Forces want to stop this trend. The Danish Armed Forces therefore, have intensified the work on the issue of equal opportunities. Two attitudes are central to this effort: An open mind towards women and women's contribution be considered as an asset rather than limitations.

National Co-ordination Office

Headquarters, Chief of Defence - Denmark
Chief of Structure and Training Branch/PSU 2
P.O. Box 202
DK - 2950 Vedbaek
Tel: +45-4567-3529
Fax: +45-4567-3609
email: psu@fko.dk
POC: Berit Christensen

National Delegate to the Committee on Women in the NATO Forces

Unknown to date.

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