Recognising the Female Veteran Identity

AFC Kirsty Hill

Written by Kirsty Hill
Education & Community Lead

Hi. I’m Kirsty, Shaping Portsmouth’s Education & Community Lead and a Royal Navy Veteran.

The term Veteran, or soldier, typically evokes a male image, even female Veterans themselves don’t always identify with the term.

Women have been present and serving in wars since the beginning, yet historically women are typically not recognised by the public for their dedication to the service and their county. As the projection of the female veteran population increases, it is important to raise awareness and consider what changes may be needed to better suit their needs. 

When it comes to thinking about what a Veteran is, female identity seems to be lost.

The ratio of men v women has always been disproportionate, and this appears to be a continuing theme in Veterans seeking support. Female Veterans are much more likely to seek support from their GP and non-veteran providers. I once attended a veteran-specific drop-in session which was recommended by a work colleague, I attended the venue and was asked by a male worker if I was there to pick up a husband or partner. I left and never went back.

What many don’t realise is that Female Veterans may appear to look like civilian women, they may have a similar skill set and the same opportunities, however many veteran females find it extremely challenging to fit into the workplace and civilian society in general. Some of the behaviours and habits that they used to help them fit in during military service are now the things that make Veteran women stand out.

Overall, many female veterans feel that the general public does not understand or recognise their service. This perceived invalidation of a female’s service can feel as if her experiences during or related to her service, including combat, service-related disability, sexual assault or harassment are also not acknowledged or considered. 

Without a uniform or badge, there is no indication that you are a Veteran, many women are told “you are too young” or “too feminine” to ever believe that she could have served in the armed forces. 

Understanding military culture is crucial to providing effective support to Veterans. Acknowledging that the military is not a job, it’s a way of life and including female veterans in the conversation around improving Veteran health care and support is essential. 

It’s hugely important to me that all Veterans, but especially female veterans, feel that they can access the support and guidance that wasn’t available to me when I was in need. As individuals and organisations, there are some simple things that we can do to support Veterans. Firstly, identify who they are, give them a voice and offer your commitment to support them if they require it. Secondly, sign the Armed Forces Covenant and make a commitment to Veterans working within your organisation that you are choosing to better your support of Veterans and individuals in the Armed Forces Community.

If you would like further information on the Armed Forces Covenant, please contact Programme Co-Leads Kate Mizon at or Andy Moss at