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

Special Edition




The introduction in Italy of women's military service has long been the focus of debate for both the public opinion and the military and many relevant proposals for legislation have been submitted over the years.

The Armed Services were the only remaining public sector precluded to women and the situation was no longer acceptable in a country whose Constitution reads "All citizens are invested with equal social status and are equal before the law, without distinction as to sex, ….".

Finally, law n. 380 of October 20, 1999 admitted Italian female citizens to public competitions for the recruitment of Officers and Non-commissioned officers on active service and of other ranks on voluntary service.


The Italian Armed Forces is at a turning point in its history, not only because of the admission of women into their ranks, but also because of the shift from conscription to an all-volunteer system of recruitment. Within the new organisation the presence of women will certainly represent a positive addition.

General Policies

The law that introduced the voluntary female service tasked the Government to issue one or more delegated decrees during the year 2000.

These include:

  • delegated decree n. 24/2000 intended to give provisions on recruitment, status and career progression largely based on the principle of equal opportunities in regards to ranks, qualifications, specialities and appointments;
  • decree n. 114/2000 establishing specific fitness standards for admission to military service; in this respect, it is pointed out that the relevant existing decree has not been changed except for the addition of the specific illnesses that may affect women.
  • ministerial decree dated February 9, 2000 established, how service women will be employed in the existing overall strength.

Based on the principle of the gradual intake of female personnel into the Armed Forces, the above-mentioned decree will be updated annually. In addition, the norms on maternity leave granted to civil servants will also apply to military female personnel.

Service Statistics

Today, women constitute 0.1% (438) of the Italian Armed Forces. The Army employs the majority of the women with 343 (0.2%), then the Navy with 50 (0,1%), followed by the Air Force 40 (0.06%). The Carabinieri employ 5 (0,004%) female personnel.


The same recruitment procedures for male servicemen also apply to servicewomen, with adjusting fitness standards as deemed necessary to take into account physiological differences.

The first competitions were announced in the year 2000. Given the large number of applications from women, almost all-available posts have been filled. In particular the competitions are for:

  • The enrolment of officers at Military Academies where women are admitted to all occupations (to include the medical and engineering Corps): up to a 20% of available posts. The numbers of female intakes into Military Academies are as follows:
    • Army: 39 students (16% of available posts);
    • Navy: 31 students (20% of available posts);
    • Air Force: 30 students (20% of available posts);
    • Carabinieri: 3 students (6% of available posts);
  • the recruitment of young officers holding a university degree for unrestricted admission to all rolls (medical, administration, etc.).

The numbers of female intakes into this category are as follows:

    • Army: 17 personnel (42.5 % of available posts);
    • Navy: 19 personnel (32.2% of available posts);
    • Air Force: 10 personnel (40% of available posts);
    • Carabinieri: 2 personnel (25% of available posts);
  • the recruitment of, an extraordinary competition, with up to 30% of posts open to women.

In this respect 288 female non-commissioned officers have been recruited, only in the Army, on a trial basis, which represents 30% of available posts. Also this year a competition for volunteers on short-enlistment term, an extraordinary competition in the Army, has been launched. In this area we have recruited 280 personnel.

This year, in accordance with the principle of gradual recruitment, and for the purpose of a smooth integration of female personnel with their male counterparts, competitions for non-commissioned officers have been launched. A quota of 20% is in effect. This necessary limitation is due to two distinct of reasons: not yet all military structures are able to host female personnel and we have not yet gained any practical experience in the operational employment of women.

Training and Employment

In theory, no restrictions are forecasted on women's employment.

To ensure a proper utilisation of female personnel, it is deemed appropriate to proceed gradually by assigning female personnel to logistic areas, to start with, so that problems, if any, may be identified and tackled before considering employment in other areas. Today all the cadets or young female officers are still attending the academies or the military school. Therefor integration of women in the Italian Armed Forces is at early stage of gaining experience. However, the short-term female volunteers, in the combatant specialisation inside infantry, regiment, tank group, parachutist school, mountain infantry school etc, are now assigned in Units to finish the specific training, right after the basic and intermediate training. The purpose of this initiative is to provide everyone with the necessary experience and unit exposure before a wider integration of women is possible.

As for men the selection of the specialisation is based on a combination of:

  • service needs;
  • personnel ask;
  • physical and fitness standard;
  • psycho profile
  • previous experiences in the civilian live.

Career development

There will be no restrictions on promotion or career progression, and servingwomen will be able to reach the highest level of military hierarchy.
Now the highest rank held by a female is lieutenant. They are the women who were recruited with the University decree.


The admission of women into the ranks of the Armed Forces marks an important social and cultural shift from the past because it helps to bring the military in line with a social system in which women are increasing filling leadership positions.

Although, women's entry into such the military field has been far from easy, the favourable opinion expressed by the first female officers bears witness to the work of the Government and the Armed Forces as a job well-done.

Of course, the road to full integration is long and there will be stumbling blocks on the way to complete the integration process. Nevertheless, in the light of these first experiences, we are confident that the presence of military female will constitute an improvement in the Armed Forces, both in quality and in professional skills.

National Co-ordination Office

Stato Maggiore Della Difesa
1 Reparto Personale
Ufficio Reclutamento, Stato e Avanzamento
Via XX Settembre 11
00187 Roma, Italia
Tel: +39-6-4691-2643
Fax: +39-6-4691-2961
Email: primo.persfemm@smd.difesa.it

National Delegate to the Committee on Women in the NATO Forces

Captain(Navy) Silvano Canarutto
Same Address as above

Go to Homepage Go to Index