Ads about recruiting women for military planning amid reports of sexual misconduct – National


A sexual misconduct expert says it would be dishonest for the US Department of Defense to promote the military as a positive workplace for women in an upcoming campaign following widespread reports to the contrary.

The Canadian armed forces, which have long struggled to increase the number of women in their ranks, hope to represent a quarter of the membership by 2026.

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That number is now around 15 percent, and an internal study suggests the department needs to hire around 3,500 women each year to reach its goal.

While recruiting more women is challenging, the military has been rocked last year by public reports of sexual misconduct allegations, including against its senior officials.

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The complaints of widespread inappropriate behavior led Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to say it was clear that the military complainants had no place to share their experiences. He asked a former Supreme Court judge to investigate the matter in April, more than six years after an earlier report on the matter.

That same month, a consulting firm delivered a report based on focus groups with women ages 18-34 to test ads ahead of a recruiting campaign originally scheduled to launch in October.

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“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, production was suspended and campaign plans and tactics had to be adjusted,” said Andrew McKelvey, a national defense spokesman, on Thursday.

He added that the department started work on this latest effort in the spring of 2020 and has run different versions of such ads over the years.

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“We are currently planning to start a women’s campaign in winter.”

A summary of the report, posted on a federal website, describes how attendees were shown storyboards of various advertising concepts addressing the lives of women in the Air Force, the Royal Canadian Navy, and the Canadian Army.

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The images showed women traveling, mothers finding a good work-life balance with their families, and opportunities to work in non-traditional environments.

“I think they have to deal with a cultural issue before they can make any claim in recruitment campaigns,” said Megan MacKenzie, professor of international law and human security at Simon Fraser University, who studies sexual misconduct in the military.

“It is dishonest at this point to recruit women with such positive messages for a facility, when so many women and men who have experienced sexual misconduct say that they do not feel safe in the facility.”

The report includes summaries of feedback from the 59 attendees on the ads they saw, including one where they saw the message as one of women accepted in the military for being part of the LGBTQ community.

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“Participants felt the ad did not address concerns about LGBTQ in the military and, to some, appeared to contradict recent headlines about sexual abuse in the armed forces,” it reads.

Another theme that was conveyed in the various advertisements was the fact that women in military service can continue to care for their children, which has generated both positive and negative responses.

“Some participants did not appreciate the stereotype that women had to look after families or children and that a similar approach would not be used to recruit men,” the report said.

A similar study found that women felt that “the importance of work-life balance is portrayed in a more subtle way by showing only the stroller instead of the baby”.

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Various reactions have also been recorded for scenes depicting a woman in the Royal Canadian Air Force working as a mechanic.

“Younger participants expressed the importance of highlighting jobs that are typically done by men that are done by women, but a mechanic is no longer that rare,” the report said, while others shared the picture felt as “strengthening”.

“It seems a bit difficult to argue why the Canadian Armed Forces are a good place for women or a good place to work for women,” MacKenzie said after reviewing the report.

She asked if it was even possible for the department to run a positive recruitment campaign if the armed forces were in a “crisis” to register in the future.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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