UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Trial employment of Canadian forces servicewomen in a combat service support unit Karmas, Lenora-Mae Adelle


In response to the promulgation of the Canadian Human Rights Act, 1 March 1978, the Canadian Forces initiated five, four-year studies of the employment of servicewomen in previously all-male units. The overall aim of the SWINTER (Servicewomen in Non-traditional Environments and Roles) trials, which commenced in 1980, was to assess the impact of employing servicewomen on the operational capability of near-combat or remote, isolated units. Based on the results of these trials, service-women either will be placed permanently into similar units across Canada or they will revert to their traditional, pre-trial roles. Because these decisions must be made with the concurrence of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the results of the trials must provide sound evidence of a bona fide occupational requirement for continuing the historical employment discrimination against servicewomen. The focus of this thesis was the land element (or "army") trial being conducted in Canadian Forces Europe "(CFE), Germany, and, specifically, 4 Service Battalion (4 Svc Bn), a combat service support (logistics) unit. Thirty-nine servicewomen had been posted into the unit in September, 1980; three years later, the number had been increased to 54 or approximately 12% of the Battalion's strength. In September, 1983, intensive one-and-a-half to two hour interviews were held with a selected sample of 30 of the servicewomen at CFE, to confirm data gathered during the first three years of the trial by an onsite Social and Behavioural Science Advisor and a participant-observer in May, 1982. Records of interviews conducted prior to their posting to 4 Svc Bn indicated that the servicewomen were highly motivated and self-confident trial participants with good work histories. They believed that by proving their abilities, they would be accepted into the previously all-male military unit as legitimate members and would influence a successful trial conclusion which would generate a policy to permanently employ servicewomen in all combat service support units. In other words, performance would facilitate their acceptance by the servicemen and integration into the Battalion. It was found that although performance and demonstrated ability were high, the service-women's expectations were not met. Over time, they had become discouraged and disillusioned about serving in the near-combat unit. In conjunction with recent sex-role literature, status characteristics and expectation states theory was used to explain the socio-psychological process whereby expectations based on performance are formed. Kanter's structural/numerical proportions model was then reviewed for its appropriateness in describing the unmet expectations of the servicewomen. The concept of token status and six ensuing interaction patterns resulting from the perceptual phenomena of visibility (over observation, extension of consequences, attention to token's discrepant status, fear of retaliation) and polarization (exaggeration of the dominant's culture, loyalty tests) were then applied. It was determined that, while performance or demonstrated ability are necessary to establish some credibility, when one social category holds token status as the servicewomen did in the Land Trial, integration remains handicapped. Expectations for acceptance cannot be met and very marginal group membership is perpetuated. The implications of the findings for the Canadian Forces were discussed. The results of this study were related specifically to the Land Trial and generally to the potential impact on military small group cohesion should servicewomen be permanently employed in the combat service support units.

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