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Understanding Men's Attitudes Toward Women in the Swedish Armed Forces

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We examined attitudes toward women in the military in a random representative sample of 1,320 male officers from the Swedish Armed Forces. We expected age, education, rank, years of military service, sexist beliefs, and interpersonal contact to correlate with men's attitudes toward women in the military. Correlational analyses indicated that individuals expressing more positive attitudes toward women in the military tended to be younger, more educated, and higher in rank, were less likely to endorse sexist ideologies, and had greater interpersonal contact with women in the military. Regression analyses showed that education, rank, sexism, and contact emerged as the best predictors of these attitudes. Further examination of the effects of contact on these attitudes indicated that the quality of the contact experience was uniquely important in understanding men's attitudes toward women in the military. We discuss the implications of these findings for promoting greater acceptance of women in the military.
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Understanding Men’s Attitudes Toward
Women in the Swedish Armed Forces
Sophia Ivarsson
Department of Leadership and Management
Swedish National Defence College
Stockholm, Sweden
Armando X. Estrada
Department of Psychology
Washington State University, Vancouver
Anders W. Berggren
Department of Leadership and Management
Swedish National Defence College
Stockholm, Sweden
We examined attitudes toward women in the military in a random representative sam-
ple of 1,320 male officers from the Swedish Armed Forces. We expected age, educa-
tion, rank, years of military service, sexist beliefs, and interpersonal contact to corre-
late with men’s attitudes toward women in the military. Correlational analyses
indicated that individuals expressing more positive attitudes toward women in the
military tended to be younger, more educated, and higher in rank, were less likely to
endorse sexist ideologies, and had greater interpersonal contact with women in the
military. Regression analyses showed that education, rank, sexism, and contact
emerged as the best predictors of these attitudes. Further examination of the effects of
contact on these attitudes indicated that the quality of the contact experience was
uniquely important in understanding men’s attitudes toward women in the military.
We discuss the implications of these findings for promoting greater acceptance of
women in the military.
Women have served in the armed forces of many nations (e.g., Binkin & Bach,
1977; Kladny, 2002; Klick, 1978; Manning & Wight, 2000), but their service has
MILITARY PSYCHOLOGY, 2005, 17(4), 269–282
Copyright © 2005, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Correspondence should be addressed to Sophia Ivarsson, Department of Leadership and Manage-
ment, Swedish National Defence College, P.O. Box 27805, SE-115 93 Stockholm, Sweden. E-mail:
sophia.ivarsson@fhs.mil.se
not always been officially recognized or rewarded (Hoiberg, 1991). Sweden has
been no exception. Women were allowed to enter into selected military occupa-
tions in the early 1980s. However, nearly a decade later, all restrictions on
women’s participation in the military were removed. Today, women can serve in
any military occupation for which they are qualified, including those in the combat
arms (e.g., armor, artillery, and infantry). Although these changes have increased
opportunities for women in the Swedish Armed Forces, several challenges have
emerged. Recent studies indicate that harassment and discrimination appear to be
widespread and problematic for most women in the Swedish Armed Forces
(Estrada & Berggren, 1999). Moreover, studies of men in the Swedish Armed
Forces suggest that men are ambivalent and resistant toward women in the military
(Berggren & Ivarsson, 2002; Ivarsson, 2002). To begin to deal with these chal-
lenges, the Swedish Department of Defence commissioned several studies focus-
ing on barriers to women’s military service. This study investigated factors influ-
encing men’s acceptance of women in the Swedish Armed Forces.
Contemporary research on attitudes toward women in general and women in the
military in particular suggests that societal attitudes toward women’s roles and
rights are increasingly more tolerant than in previous decades (Mason, Czajka, &
Arber, 1976; Spence & Hahn, 1997; Torres-Reyna & Shapiro, 2002; Twenge,
1997). Recent studies of service personnel indicate that trends toward liberalized
attitudes among military personnel have mirrored changes taking place in the civil-
ian sector (Harrell & Miller, 1997; Hicks Stiehm, 1998). Studies of cadets at the
U.S. Military Academy (Adams, Rice, & Instone, 1984), the U.S. Air Force Acad-
emy (DeFleur, 1985; Mathews, 1992; Mathews & Weaver, 1990), and the U.S. Na-
val Academy (Durning, 1978; Robinson Kurpius & Lucart, 1998) provide addi-
tional evidence of these trends.
Although these studies suggest that women’s roles and rights in the military
may be expanding, other research shows that there is less support for extending
women’s opportunities in combat roles (Field & Nagl, 2001; Mathews, 1992;
Mathews & Weaver, 1990; Naylor & Walker, 1994; Torres-Reyna & Shapiro,
2002; Wilcove & Thomas, 1979). Torres-Reyna and Shapiro analyzed data from
several public opinion polls from 1944 to 2002 and found that although a large ma-
jority of Americans support the participation of women in the military, there is less
support for women’s participation in direct combat roles. Although 50% to 70% of
respondents supported women’s participation in combat support and combat ser-
vice support roles, only 20% to 40% supported women’s roles in the combat arms.
Mathews (1992) and Mathews and Weaver (1990) reported similar results in a
reanalysis of data from the General Social Surveys and with data from college stu-
dents from a service academy and a private college. Hicks Stiehm (1998) and Pe-
terson (2003) reported similar results based on data from U.S. Army personnel.
Durning (1978), Mathews (1992), Mathews and Weaver (1990), and Robinson
Kurpius and Lucart (1998) reported comparable results in studies of service
academy cadets and midshipmen.
270 IVARSSON, ESTRADA, BERGGREN
Research examining the correlates of these attitudes indicates that age, educa-
tion, rank, length of service, and interpersonal contact influence the nature of these
attitudes for both civilian (Craig & Jacobs, 1987; Etaugh & Spiller, 1989;
McEwen, 1991; McKinney, 1987; Mookherjee, 1996; Slevin & Wingrove, 1984)
and military (Adams, 1985; Adams et al., 1984; DeFleur, 1985; Durning, 1978;
Harrell & Miller, 1997; Hicks, 1978; Mathews, 1992; Mathews & Weaver, 1990;
Oliver, 1981; Ramsberger, Laurence, & Sipes, 1999; Robinson Kurpius & Lucart,
1998) populations. This research suggests that older, less educated, higher ranking
individuals who have had limited contact with women in the military are more
likely to hold negative attitudes toward women in the military.
Although this research indicates that demographic and contact variables may
influence men’s attitudes toward women in the military, other research also points
to the importance of understating how sexist beliefs may influence these attitudes.
Glicke and Fiske (1996, 2001a, 2001b) argued that sexist ideologies may function
to guide interpersonal relationships between women and men in a variety of con-
texts including work. They contend that in modern society where gender equality
threatens male dominance, sexism is directed toward women who challenge tradi-
tional male roles (e.g., feminists, woman careerists). The armed forces represents
one of these traditional male roles in which women are viewed as threatening male
roles within the military. Indeed, several studies indicate that women often face
(extreme) resistance when assuming military positions in the armed forces
(Berggren, 2002; Herbert, 1998). Consistent with Glick and Fiske, we propose that
men’s resistance toward women in the military may stem from men’s sexist beliefs.
Glick et al. (2000) showed that two competing ideologies underlie sexist be-
liefs. Benevolent sexism refers to “subjectively positive orientation of protection,
idealization, and affection directed toward women” (Glick et al., 2000, p. 763).
Hostile sexism, a more subtle form of sexist hostility, is evidenced by an ad-
versarial view of gender relationships in which women are perceived as seeking to
control men and as challenging men’s authority and power (Glick & Fiske, 1996).
Both forms of sexism are complementary and function to reinforce gender in-
equalities across a variety of cultures (Glick & Fiske, 2001a; Glick et al., 2000). In
the workplace, these ideologies may manifest themselves in the beliefs individuals
hold regarding women’s suitability and potential for certain types of roles (e.g.,
service or care vs. management or military service). For example, an individual
espousing benevolent–hostile sexist beliefs may hold a traditional view of gender
equality that posits that gender inequities may be both good and functional for
society because “men and women have always been different, and have different
duties in society because they are different by nature. Going against this is un-
natural.” From this perspective, any steps taken to give women increased access to
male-dominated roles would be considered unnecessary or of low priority
(Kvande & Rasmussen, 1993; Pincus, 1997).
In the military, sexist ideologies may play a similar role in guiding men’s atti-
tudes toward the participation of women in the military. For example, a traditional
ATTITUDES TOWARD WOMEN IN THE MILITARY 271
view of women in the military would hold that because women contribute less and
perform poorer than men they are less suitable for the profession of officer, partic-
ularly in leadership and combatant roles. Accordingly, any actions taken to in-
crease women’s roles and rights within the military would be unnecessary and of
low priority because these actions could result in lowering the quality of officers. A
more egalitarian view of women in the military would consider women to be
equally suitable for any military occupation and would consider these actions nec-
essary to increase women’s opportunities in the military workplace. In either case,
sexist beliefs have the potential to influence individual attitudes toward women in
the military. As such, it is plausible to expect that sexist beliefs may influence
men’s attitudes toward women.
This study examines male officer’s attitudes toward women in the Swedish
Armed Forces. We expect men’s attitudes toward women in the military to be posi-
tive and significantly correlated with age, level of education, length of military ser-
vice, extent of interpersonal contact, and endorsement of sexist ideologies. We also
expect that both interpersonal contact and endorsement of sexist beliefs will have
unique independent effects on these attitudes.
METHOD
Participants and Procedures
We mailed survey packets to a random representative sample of 1,740 participants
drawnfromthe population of male officersservinginthe Swedish Armed Forces be-
tween May and June of 2002. The survey packets included a cover letter describing
the general purpose of the study and addressing confidentiality issues, a set of ques-
tionnaires assessing attitudes toward women in the military and classic and modern
sexism, and items assessing various demographic characteristics. A follow-up
reminder with a second survey packet was sent to individuals who did not submit the
survey within a 3-week period. We obtained 1,606 surveys at the end of the survey
period, yielding a response rate of 92.2%. Initial screening of the data indicated that
1,320 survey responses were usable for data analysis.
Analysis of the demographic characteristics of the sample (N= 1,320) indicated
that the mean age of the participants was 41.02 years (SD = 9.54) with a range of 22
to 62 years. Five percent of the participants completed 9th grade, 16.6% completed
2 years post senior secondary school, 35.4% completed 3 years post senior second-
ary school, 15.3% completed 4 years post senior secondary school, and 27.8%
completed university coursework. Thirty-nine percent of the participants reported
being single (i.e., not legally married),155% were married, and 5.4% were sepa-
272 IVARSSON, ESTRADA, BERGGREN
1Swedish law recognizes several categories of marital status for the “single” category, including
single, single with a partner, and cohabiting.
rated, divorced, or widowed. Less than 1% of the participants were cadet/ser-
geants,23.8% were second lieutenants, 29.8% were first lieutenants, 32.4% were
captains, 21.6% were majors, 10.2% were lieutenant colonels, and 1.9% were col-
onels. Fifty percent of the sample was from the Army, 17% was from the Navy,
29.4% was from the Air Force, and 3.7% included other military personnel
assigned to specialized units not part of the regular forces. As shown in Table 1, the
sample approximated the distribution of rank and military service of the male
officer population of the Swedish Armed Forces.
Measures
Attitudes toward women in the military.
We assessed participant’s atti-
tudes toward women in the military with 10 items taken from the Women in the
Military (AWM) scale developed by Hurrell and Lukens (1994, 1995). The 10
items were designed to assess gender equality (e.g., “Women can perform as well
as men in all facets of the military”), maternity (e.g., “Having children should not
be an obstacle to a woman contemplating the military as a career”), and family and
combat roles (e.g., “Women in the military should not be assigned to active combat
duty”) for women in the military. The items were presented to respondents using a
5-point scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree)to5(strongly agree). Total scores
were created by reverse scoring and summing across items, with higher scores in-
dicating more positive attitudes toward women in the military.
ATTITUDES TOWARD WOMEN IN THE MILITARY 273
2The rank of cadet/sergeant is a training grade assigned to officer candidates in the Swedish Armed
Forces.
TABLE 1
Comparison of Participants’ Rank and Branch of Service
With Male Officer Population
Variable Study Participants (%) Male Officer Population (%)
Rank
Cadet/sergeant 0.2 NA
Second lieutenant 3.8 7.4
First lieutenant 29.8 30.7
Captain 32.4 29.8
Major 21.6 20.6
Lieutenant colonel 10.2 9.6
Colonel 1.9 1.6
Branch of service
Army 50.0 50.0
Navy 17.0 24.0
Air Force 29.4 26.0
Other 3.7
Note. NA = not applicable.
Classic and modern sexism.
We assessed classic and modern sexism
with the Swedish Classical and Modern Sexism (SCMS) scale developed by
Ekehammar, Akrami, and Araya (2000). The SCMS scale contains 15 items that
measure classic (e.g., “I prefer a male boss to a female boss”) and modern (e.g.,
“Discrimination of women is no longer a problem in Sweden”) sexist ideologies
(Ekehammar et al., 2000). The items were presented to respondents with a
5-point response scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree)to5(strongly agree).
Total scores were computed by reverse scoring and summing across items, with
higher scores indicating greater endorsement of classic and modern sexist
ideologies.
Demographic and contact variables.
Participants provided their age on an
open-ended question, selected their highest level of education from a list of catego-
ries (e.g., 1 = ninth to5=university), and indicated their current military rank from
a list of categories (e.g., 1 = cadet/sergeant to5=colonel). In addition, participants
indicated the number of female military personnel they personally knew and rated
the frequency (e.g., 1 = once to5=every day), length (e.g., 1 = less than a week to 4
=more than 6 months), and quality (e.g., 1 = extremely negative to9=extremely
positive) of their experience with women in the military.
RESULTS
Initial screening of the data indicated that of the 1,606 obtained surveys, only
1,320 were usable for data analyses. Loss of data was due to various reasons, in-
cluding missing or incomplete data (n= 56; 3%) and nonresponse (n= 230;
14%). A small but sizeable percentage of the respondents returned the survey
packet but did not complete the questionnaire—14% of nonrespondents. Among
those who did not complete the questionnaire, follow-up interviews suggested
that the topic was no longer considered relevant or important, and many consid-
ered that these problems did not warrant further discussion. In general, these re-
spondents felt the topic had received adequate attention and was no longer a
problem for the military.
Table 2 shows the means, standard deviations, Pearson correlation coefficients,
and Cronbach’s alpha coefficients for each of the variables in the study. As shown
in Table 2, the average respondent in our sample was 41 years old, had completed
nearly 4 years post senior secondary school,3and was a captain with an average of
20 years of military service. In addition, the average respondent indicated having
personal contact with an average of 10 women in the military. Table 2 also shows
the mean scores for the sexism scales and AWM scale. The mean score for the sam-
274 IVARSSON, ESTRADA, BERGGREN
3Education was a categorical variable indicating the number of years of senior secondary school
completed.
ple was 2.25 (SD = 0.50) for the classical sexism scale, 2.71 (SD = 0.48) for the
modern sexism scale, and 3.89 (SD = 0.58) for the AWM scale. A one-sample ttest
was performed on classical and modern sexism scores and AWM scores to evalu-
ate whether their mean was significantly different from 3, the neutral midpoint of
the scale. The results of these analyses were significant, suggesting that partici-
pants were less likely to endorse classical sexist ideologies, t(1317) = –53.233, p<
.001; less likely to endorse modern sexist ideologies, t(1317) = –20.920, p< .001;
and more likely to express general acceptance of women in the military, t(1317) =
–98.496, p< .01.
Correlates and Predictors of Men’s Attitudes Toward
Women in the Military
Pearson correlation coefficients were calculated to examine the linear relation-
ships hypothesized among the variables. As shown in Table 2, individuals express-
ing greater acceptance of women in the military tended to be younger, more edu-
cated, higher ranking, had less military service experience, had greater levels of
interpersonal contact with female military personnel, and were less likely to en-
dorse classical and modern sexist ideologies.
Hierarchical linear regression analyses were used to further examine these re-
sults and to provide a more rigorous test of the proposed hypotheses. In theses
analyses, mean scores on the AWM scale were used as the dependent variable, and
demographic, sexism, and contact variables were entered as predictor variables in
the regression equation. Demographic variables were entered in the first step (e.g.,
age, education, rank, length of service), sexism variables were entered in the sec-
ATTITUDES TOWARD WOMEN IN THE MILITARY 275
TABLE 2
Means, Standard Deviations, Alpha Coefficients, and Pearson Correlations
of Variables
Variable M SD 12345678
1. Age 41.02 9.54
2. Education 3.44 1.19 –.17
3. Military rank 4.09 1.12 .42 .28
4. Years of service 20.95 9.70 .95 –.23 .39
5. Contact with women 10.37 9.70 –.07 .10 .04 –.07
6. Classical sexism 2.25 0.50 –.03 –.00 –.06 –.03 –.05 .71
7. Modern sexism 2.71 0.48 –.14 .00 –.09 –.12 –.05 .46 .72
8. AWM 3.89 0.58 –.06 .06 .06 –.06 .13 –.56 –.41 .81
Note.N= 1,320. All correlation coefficients greater than .05 are statistically significant, p< .001.
Higher values indicate increased contact with women in the military, greater endorsement of classical
and modern sexist ideologies, and greater acceptance of women in the military. Cronbach’s alpha coef-
ficients appear on the diagonal. AWM = Women in the Military scale.
ond step (e.g., classic and modern sexism scores), and interpersonal contact vari-
ables were entered in the third step (e.g., number of women). We found that rank,
sexism, and interpersonal contact emerged as significant predictors of men’s atti-
tudes toward women in the military (see Table 3). Individuals expressing greater
acceptance of women in the military were higher in rank, were less likely to en-
dorse sexist ideologies, and had higher levels of interpersonal contact with women
in the military.
To further examine the effects of contact on men’s attitudes toward women in
the military we performed a second hierarchical regression analyses entering de-
mographic variables in the first step, sexism variables in the second step, the con-
tact variable in the third step, and qualitative indexes of contact with women in the
military in the fourth step (e.g., frequency, length, and quality of contact experi-
ences). Consistent with our previous analysis, we found that rank, sexism, and con-
tact emerged as significant predictors of men’s attitudes toward women in the mili-
tary (see Table 4). In addition, we found that individual ratings of the quality of the
contact experience was a significant predictor of these attitudes. The relative im-
portance of the quality of the contact experience remained significant even after
276 IVARSSON, ESTRADA, BERGGREN
TABLE 3
First Hierarchical Regression Analysis of Variables
Predicting Attitudes Toward Women in the Military
Variable B SE B β
Step 1
Age –.001 .009 –.017
Education .019 .017 .039
Rank .056 .020 .107*
Length of service –.002 .009 –.038
Step 2
Age –.007 .008 –.119
Education .024 .014 .049
Rank .040 .016 .077*
Length of service –.001 .007 –.014
Classical sexism –.546 .032 –.473
Modern sexism –.241 .034 –.202*
Step 3
Age –.006 .008 –.106
Education .021 .014 .043
Rank .038 .016 .072*
Length of service –.001 .007 –.008
Classical sexism –.543 .032 –.470*
Modern sexism –.237 .034 –.198*
Contact with women .004 .001 .082*
Note.N= 1,320. For Step 1, R2= .010; for Step 2, R2= .364, p< .001; for
Step 3, R2= .370, p< .001.
*p< .001.
controlling for the effects of other variables on these attitudes. Finally, we also
found that education emerged as a significant predictor of these attitudes.
DISCUSSION
As expected, we found that men’s attitudes toward women in the military were
positive. Although these findings are consistent with those reported in the litera-
ATTITUDES TOWARD WOMEN IN THE MILITARY 277
TABLE 4
Second Hierarchical Regression Analysis of Variables
Predicting Attitudes Toward Women in the Military
Variable B SE B β
Step 1
Age –.002 .010 –.042
Education .027 .018 .057
Rank .049 .020 .095*
Length of service –.001 .009 –.001
Step 2
Age –.007 .008 –.124
Education .032 .014 .065*
Rank .034 .016 .066*
Length of service –.001 .008 –.029
Classical sexism –.527 .033 –.468*
Modern sexism –.237 .035 –.204*
Step 3
Age –.006 .008 –.111
Education .028 .014 .058*
Rank .031 .016 .061*
Length of service –.001 .008 –.025
Classical sexism –.524 .033 –.465*
Modern sexism –.233 .034 –.200*
Contact with women .004 .002 .085*
Step 4
Age –.006 .008 –.108
Education .028 .014 .058*
Rank .028 .016 .055*
Length of service –.001 .007 –.023
Classical sexism –.491 .033 –.436*
Modern sexism –.212 .034 –.182*
Contact with women .004 .002 .070*
Frequency of contact –.010 .013 –.022
Length of contact .009 .013 .020
Quality of contact .059 .013 .127*
Note.N= 1,320. For Step 1, R2= .010; for Step 2, R2= .359, p< .001; for
Step 3, R2= .365, p< .001; for Step 4, R2= .378, p< .001.
*p< .001.
ture (Harrell & Miller, 1997; Hicks Stiehm, 1998; Torres-Reyna & Shapiro, 2002;
Twenge, 1997), we were surprised to find that men’s attitudes were not more posi-
tive (i.e., extremely positive). Swedish society is typically characterized as more
egalitarian with respect to women’s work roles than many nations worldwide (e.g.,
Anker, 1998; Best & Williams, 1997; Hofstede, 2001). As such, we would expect
societal attitudes (and men’s attitudes) to reflect these views. Our findings suggest
that male officers’attitudes toward women in the military were not particularly lib-
eral or egalitarian.4This raises some interesting issues regarding the universality of
the military experience across cultures. It may be that regardless of the particular
country or culture, military organizations may share universal values and tradi-
tions that tend to favor men over women. Although these data preclude us from
making an unequivocal statement concerning this hypothesis, we raise this possi-
bility for future research.
We also found that men’s positive attitudes toward women in the military were
significantly correlated with the respondent’s age, education, military rank, years
of military service, classic and modern forms of sexism, and interpersonal contact
with women in the military. Again, these findings are consistent with the literature
on this topic (e.g., Adams, 1985; Adams et al., 1984; Craig & Jacobs, 1987;
DeFleur, 1985; Durning, 1978; Etaugh & Spiller, 1989; Harrell & Miller, 1997;
Hicks, 1978; Mathews, 1992; Mathews & Weaver, 1990; McEwen, 1991;
McKinney, 1987; Mookherjee, 1996; Oliver, 1981; Ramsberger et al., 1999; Rob-
inson Kurpius & Lucart, 1998; Slevin & Wingrove, 1984). Our findings are also in
agreement with the results of a previous study that showed that men with higher
rank demonstrated greater acceptance of women in uniform (Ivarsson, 2002);
however, the participants in that study had limited direct experience with women in
uniform. The present findings build on this research by showing that contact with
women in the military has a unique effect on men’s acceptance of women in the
military. Nevertheless, we recognize the need to study further the importance of
the quality of the contact experience on men’s attitudes toward women in the mili-
tary. How do men define their positive contacts with women in uniform? Although
the quality of the contact experience appears to be a stronger determinant of men’s
attitudes toward women in the military, it is not possible to determine what specific
aspects of these experiences contribute to men’s acceptance of women in the mili-
tary. The results of a previous study (Ivarsson, 2002) suggested that men’s positive
experiences regarding women in the military are related to men’s perceptions
about women’s abilities to adapt to the military organizational culture without
“losing their femininity.” Negative experiences, on the other hand, tend to be char-
acterized by perceptions of women who have adapted too much, becoming almost
278 IVARSSON, ESTRADA, BERGGREN
4We realize that our results could vary based on the data from nonrespondents. However, examina-
tion of demographic characteristics did not reveal any systematic difference among respondents and
nonrespondents in our study. Thus, we opted for a more conservative interpretation of our results.
masculine without adding anything particularly feminine, and that female officers
were considered to benefit from their gender in situations of career advancement.
If men’s positive contacts with women in uniform are defined in terms of their
adaptability, women’s ability to develop unique leadership and management styles
may be limited. Because women’s roles are increasingly recognized for their con-
tribution to the management, prevention, and resolution of armed conflicts, it is
important that military organizations increase the presence of women and
strengthen their authority (Olsson & Tryggestad, 2001).
The results also point to the importance of understanding the role of sexist be-
liefs in influencing men’s attitudes toward women in the military. We found that
endorsement of sexist ideologies was negatively related with acceptance of women
in the military. Contemporary research on sexism suggests that individuals who
endorse sexist beliefs are least likely to support women’s rights and roles, particu-
larly women’s roles in nontraditional environments like the military (Glick &
Fiske, 1996, 2001a, 2001b). Our findings are consistent with this view and high-
light the need to further examine military personnel’s beliefs and how these impact
their views of women in the military. Whereas societal values may be more egali-
tarian in nature, the values of military personnel may be more likely to be more
conservative or traditional as compared with society at large. This may present a
challenge to the integration of women in the military. As more women seek oppor-
tunities within the military profession, they may find themselves in an environ-
ment that does not fully recognize or reward their contributions. As a result,
women may be more likely to withdraw from the organization and ultimately sepa-
rate from the armed forces. The end result may yield a decrease in the representa-
tion of women in the military. This outcome is clearly not desirable, as the results
of the effects of contact on men’s attitudes show that having more women in the
military will positively increase the acceptance of women in military positions.
These findings suggest that having a “critical mass” of women in the military is im-
portant for ensuring both their acceptance and progress. To succeed with the inte-
gration of women in the military (a mandatory requirement pointed out by the
Swedish Government appropriation directions; Sveriges Regering, 2000) it may
be necessary to place emphasis on recruiting men with egalitarian views and
screening out individuals with extremist views (e.g., fascist and racist attitudes).
For example, rather than informing applicants from minority groups that they
should be prepared to deal with harsh attitudes, emphasis should be given in in-
forming all applicants (especially those from the majority group—i.e., White, het-
erosexual men) that sexist and discriminatory ideologies are not accepted in the
military. It may also be worthwhile to select individuals on the basis of their poten-
tial to mirror societal values and beliefs, particularly their attitudes toward women
in nontraditional environments like the military. Although these strategies may not
be as popular or acceptable in some cultures, within Swedish society there is a
mandatory requirement to achieve gender equality in both work and social spheres.
ATTITUDES TOWARD WOMEN IN THE MILITARY 279
Theresultsalso speak in favorof gender integrated training as a strategy for modi-
fying men’s attitudes toward women in the military. We found that interpersonal
contact with women in the military was positively correlated with men’s positive
attitudes. Moreover, the results of regression analyses indicate that interpersonal
contact is among the strongest predictors of these attitudes. Thus, providing
interpersonal contact experiences through gender-integrated training may providea
useful means by which to increase acceptance of women in the military, deconstruct
stereotypes concerning women in the military, and provide tangible role models of
the kinds of contributions that women can make to the military workplace.
In sum, the results of this study indicate that men’s attitudes toward women in
the Swedish military are positive and correlated with age, education, rank, years of
service, sexist beliefs, and interpersonal contact with women in the military. More-
over, rank, sexist beliefs, and interpersonal contact with women in the military ap-
pear to be the best predictors of these attitudes. These findings are consistent with
previous studies with civilian and military populations (e.g., Adams, 1985; Adams
et al., 1984; Craig & Jacobs, 1987; Etaugh & Spiller, 1989; Harrell & Miller, 1997;
Hicks, 1978; Mathews, 1992; Oliver, 1981; Ramsberger et al., 1999; Robinson
Kurpius & Lucart, 1998; Slevin & Wingrove, 1984) and extend this body of re-
search by demonstrating that these factors influence men’s attitudes within the
Swedish military context. These findings are notable because Swedish society is
more liberal with respect to women’s rights and roles, including their rights and
roles within the military. As noted previously, as of 1989, women can serve in all
military occupations, including those in the combat arms. In contrast, many other
nations, although allowing women to serve in many military occupations, typically
exclude women from direct combat roles (Kladny, 2002; Klick, 1978; Manning &
Wight, 2000; Wechsler-Segal, 1995). It may be that there are universal characteris-
tics about the military context that threaten men in the military and function to
reinforce negativity toward women. Study of this phenomenon across cultures is
worthy of further pursuit.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This project was funded by grants from the Headquarters of the Swedish Armed
Forces and the Department of Leadership at the National Defence College of
Sweden.
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