Career progression for women in Indian Armed Forces

Career progression for women in Indian Armed Forces

Career progression for women in Indian Armed Forces

Currently, women can join the Indian Armed forces of Army, Navy and Air Force in the officer cadre only. While the Chief of Army Staff has expressed his views about hiring women in combat positions, the prevailing policies offer non-combat positions to women. Here is a quick look at the Career progression for women in Indian Armed Forces:



The promotion criteria for male and female Short Service Commissioned Officers (SSCOs) of all Arms and Services for both select and ‘non-select’ ranks is the same in the Indian Army.

  • Lieutenant – On commission
  • Captain – Two years
  • Major – Six years
  • Lieutenant Colonel – 13 years

On being granted permanent commission, women officers are eligible for the Select Rank promotions of Colonel and above based on the following criteria:

  • Colonel (Selection-based) – 15 years
  • Colonel (Timescale-based) – 26 years
  • Brigadier – 23 years
  • Major General – 25 years
  • Lieutenant General – 28 years
  • General – No limit


The promotion criteria for male and female officers of the Indian Navy is the same:

  • Lieutenant – Two years as Sub-Lieutenant
  • Lieutenant Commander – Four years from being promoted as a Substantive Lieutenant
  • Commander – 11 years from being promoted as a Substantive Lieutenant
  • Captain (Time-Scale) – 26 years of reckonable commissioned service

The officers are required to fulfil other criteria as may be prescribed from time to time.


Air force


The promotion criteria for men and women officers in the Air Force is also the same. Officers are promoted up to the rank of Wing Commander and Group Captain (Time-Scale) based on the criteria laid down for minimum years of service and certain performance matrices. The minimum years of reckonable service requirement is as follows:

  • Flight Lieutenant – Two years
  • Squadron Leader – Six years
  • Wing Commander – 13 years
  • Group Captain (Time-Scale) – 26 years

Further promotions are based on the selection process prevalent at the time of promotion.

The Glass Ceiling

Since the Indian Armed Forces started recruiting women officers in 1992-93 in non-combat roles, there has been a constant debate about inclusion of women in combat positions. Lt. Col. Mitali Madhumita was the first ever woman to have won the Gallantry award for her bravery during a terrorist attack, disregarding all ‘women officer’ rules, on her guest house in Kabul in 2010. However, she was denied further service in the Army (permanent commission) citing ‘personal reasons.

There is still a long way to go for the gender disparity to end in the Armed forces. However, the recent statement by Chief of Army Staff, Bipin Rawat, has raised hopes of having women in combat roles and shattering a piece of this glass ceiling.

In a nutshell, the promotional avenues for women in the Indian Armed Forces are similar to their male counterparts and they can climb the ranks especially after being granted permanent commission. While combat roles remain a matter of debate, the senior leadership of the Armed Forces have started taking steps to ensure that women get equal opportunities to the serve the nation like men do.