United Kingdom


Review of the Wigston Report and United Kingdom's Defence Ministry's Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion

“Whether it is crude comments, discriminatory treatment, or even offences of a sexual nature, inappropriate behaviour has no place in society, let alone in our armed forces.” – Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt [1]

by Lucy Hall

The United Kingdom’s Armed Forces have been undergoing a cultural shift in recent years. In particular, the 2019 Wigston Report (the Report) on Inappropriate Behaviours and letter written by the UK Defence Ministry in June 2020, set cultural change in the Armed Forces in motion. The Report provided key recommendations aimed to promote sustained cultural and behavioural change. Following the Report, the UK’s Ministry of Defence penned their commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion (D&I) within each Front Line Command (Army, Air Force and Navy) and within defence holistically. This review will firstly provide a brief overview on what lead to the Report, followed by a summary of the Report itself. Thereafter, the commitments made in the letter will be detailed. The review will conclude by discussing the changes SecurityWomen hopes to see in the future regarding cultural change in the military.

Leadings to the Wigston Report

The UK Armed Forces’ personnel are, by and large, professional, determined and courageous individuals who serve with respect and pride.[2] However, in each Front Line Command, there have been incidences of inappropriate behaviour. The Wigston Report defines inappropriate behaviour as “breach[ing] laws, norms of behaviour or core values and standards, including sexual offences and bullying, harassment and discrimination, that harm or risk harming individuals, teams and operational effectiveness, and bring or risk bringing the reputation of individuals, units, the Service or Defence into disrepute”.[3] Incidences of inappropriate behaviour were evidenced in the 2018 Service Complaints Ombudsman Annual Report and the 2018 Army Sexual Harassment Survey.

The 2018 Service Complaints Ombudsman Annual Report found that women were disproportionately represented by comprising 23 percent of the Service Complaints, while only making up of 11 percent of the Armed Forces.[4] Of these complaints, 43 percent related to experiences of harassment, discrimination or bullying. Further, the 2018 Army Sexual Harassment Survey found that 70 percent of complainants felt dissatisfied with the outcomes, and 75 percent stated that they received negative repercussions for making a complaint. These repercussions included humiliation and considerations of leaving the Army. The survey additionally found that 42 percent of individuals who did not make a complaint did so out of the belief that nothing would be done to resolve the matter. To repair this trust and ensure those who act inappropriately are held accountable, the Report developed a range of recommendations.

The Wigston Report: Cultivating Cultural and Behavioural Change

The Report included 36 recommendations, all of which were accepted by the Ministry of Defence.[5] Each recommendation was allocated under three thematic categories: preventing inappropriate behaviour, reporting inappropriate behaviour, and establishing a Centralised oversight and governance body. An overview of each category is provided in Table 1.

 Table 1.

Letter of Commitment

Since the publication of the Wigston Report, the Ministry of Defence renewed their commitment to promoting a culture of D&I.[6] On 24 July 2020, the Ministry wrote a letter addressing four ways in which D&I can be improved to maximise talent in the Armed Forces and within defence.[7] It was recognised by the Ministry that positive steps have been taken regarding inappropriate behaviours, diversity and inclusion. However, it was also acknowledged that more must be done. Consequently, the Ministry made four commitments to promote D&I. Each of these commitments are listed in the table below.

Table 2.

The Future of Cultural Change in the UK’s Armed Forces

Both the Wigston Report and the letter are positive first steps in the military’s commitment to preventing inappropriate behaviours and promoting D&I. SecurityWomen will monitor the military’s progress, by firstly holding the Ministry of Defence accountable to publicising the Front Line Command’s ambitions and delivery plans. Overall, we aim to see four key progressive steps towards sustained cultural change:

- the recruitment of more women to the UK Armed Forces;

- ensuring female recruits feel confident that they will not encounter misogynistic or sexist attitudes in the Forces;

- affording women the equal opportunity to excel as compared to male colleagues;

- providing women with the same leadership and decision-making opportunities as men; and

- providing women with the support and guidance to maximise their talents and skills.

See the Wigston Report and Letter of Commitment here.


[1] Royal Air Force Families Federation n.d., Addressing inappropriate behaviour in the armed forces,https://www.raf-ff.org.uk/news/addressing-inappropriate-behaviour-in-the-armed-forces/

[2] Ministry of Defence 2019, Report on Inappropriate Behaviours,https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/817838/20190607_Defence_Report_Inappropriate_Behaviours_Final_ZKL.pdf

[3] Ibid. P. 6.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] The Government of the United Kingdom 2020, Maximising Talent through diversity,https://www.gov.uk/government/news/maximising-talent-through-diversity-and-inclusion;Ministry of Defence 2019, Report on Inappropriate Behaviours

[7] Ibid.

British commander at UN Mission in South Sudan serves as role model for young women

19 September 2017

Lieutenant Colonel Katie Hislop of the United Kingdom says she is happy to serve as a role model for young women considering a career with the armed forces. The mother of two is the only woman to head a military contingent at the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

“I recognize that women are still a minority in most of the armed forces across the world, so in some ways it’s a privileged position,” she said in an interview.

“Fortunately, for me in the UK, it’s a fairly normal position I find myself in. So, if there’s anything that I could do to be a role model for young women who perhaps don't think that a military career is possible, then I would be happy to do that.”

Lt Col Hislop commanded the UK Engineering Task Force at UNMISS, made up of peacekeepers who are electricians,  builders, bricklayers, concreters and plumbers who worked across a wide range of construction projects.

As contingent commander, Lt Col Hislop supervised several projects, including the building of a hospital in the town of Bentiu, located in the north.

Read more about Lieutenant Colonel Hislop in the following article and interview:

British commander at UN Mission in South Sudan serves as role model for young women (https://peacekeeping.un.org/)


photo source: https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/british-commander-un-mission-south-sudan-serves-role-model-young-womenv

Courtesy of the Forces Network

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