Women in the Bundeswehr

They fly combat aircraft and helicopters. They jump out of planes and drive tanks. They command naval ships and line companies. Today, it is hard to imagine the Bundeswehr without women. Servicewomen have now made their way into almost every area of what was once a man’s world.

Soldatin des Wachbataillons legt ihre Hand zum Gruß an das Barett, im Hintergrund angetretene Soldaten
Bundeswehr/Arno Kehrberg

Women in the Bundeswehr: made possible by Europe

Until 2001, it seemed impossible. While women were allowed to enlist as volunteers in the Military Music Service or the Medical Service, they were prohibited from serving in combat forces. Only in 2000 did a decision by the European Court of Justice grant them unrestricted access to all military careers. There are now more than 22,500 female soldiers serving in the Bundeswehr – and that number is growing. Women now account for about twelve percent of the Bundeswehr’s some 183,000 military personnel.

Eine Grafik zeigt den Weg der Frauen zur Gleichberechtigung in der Bundeswehr.

The Bundeswehr welcomed its first servicewomen in 1975. There are now more than 22,000.

Bundeswehr

What matters is performance

The Bundeswehr offers women a wide variety of career options. They serve on equal footing with their male counterparts as boat or tank commanders, as doctors or IT  specialists, both in Germany and on the Bundeswehr’s operations and standby commitments. From marksmanship and marching to leadership – servicewomen have to achieve the same level of performance as servicemen. The Bundeswehr only differentiates between men and women when evaluating athletic performance.

Zahnärztin und ihre Assistentin während einer Behandlung

Whether civilians or in uniform, students or trainees – it is hard to imagine the Bundeswehr without women.

Bundeswehr /Sebastian Wilke

Civilian women in the Bundeswehr

The Bundeswehr offers women not only the opportunity to advance within the forces from nonrated personnel to the highest general ranks, but also many career prospects and opportunities for advancement in the civilian sector of the Bundeswehr. Almost 81,000 civilian employees work for the Bundeswehr. Just under 30,500 or 38 percent are female. Female employees and civil servants in the Bundeswehr work as administrative specialists in various parts of the armed forces or the defence administration, as well as engineers for defence technology or biologists and geologists. Today, women are also in charge of the executive levels of defence administration offices and entire major organisational elements.

What civilian status do women employed in the Bundeswehr have?

Total number of civil servants

7.977

       In higher service

1.521

       In higher intermediate service

3.267

       In intermediate service

3.159

       In ordinary service

30

Employees

20.593

In preparatory service or trainees/interns

1.904

Last updated: January 2020

An increasing number of servicewomen

In 2001, there were more than 6,700 servicewomen in the Bundeswehr. Their number has continued to increase since then. Today, about one in five applications for voluntary military service and one in three for officer’s careers come from young women. This trend should continue. What matters is performance – not gender.

Ein Balkendiagramm zeigt die Anzahl der Frauen in der Bundeswehr von 1985 bis 2018.

The Bundeswehr shrank. But the number of servicewomen in it increased steadily.

Bundeswehr

How many women serve in each area?

Servicewomen per armed service/major organisational element
Army

4.397

Air Force

2.342

Navy

1.678

Joint Support and Enabling Service

2.907

Medical Service

8.121

Cyber and Information Domain Service

1.408

Federal Ministry of Defence and other areas

1.991

What rank do the servicewomen have?

Servicewomen by rank category (including candidates)
Officers

5.837

Senior NCOs

7.949

Junior NCOs

3.522

Rank and file

5.389

What status do the servicewomen have?

Servicewomen by status
Career service member

3.644

Temporary-career volunteer

17.390

Extended voluntary service conscripts

1.663

All three tables last updated: 31 January 2020

They made it – women in the Bundeswehr