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Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Claire E. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons. The inclusion of women in the United States military has been a topic of debate since the American Revolution. January 24, marked the end of one of the few remaining barriers to their full participation as the U. Department of Defense DoD finally lifted a ban on women serving in combat fields and asments. Historically within the US military, women have occupied official and unofficial roles: predominantly as nurses, launderers, and cooks but also serving alongside their husbands or disguised as men.
Eisenhower led a successful campaign to allow women to the Regular Army, and legislation and policy have continued to adapt to the growing role of women in the military. Of the many factors that influence the occupational specialties women are able and choose to pursue in the military, this combat exclusion ban is a form of institutional bias—a policy that inadvertently le to different promotion outcomes for members of different demographic groups, such as the presence of structural barriers to advancement.
The decision to repeal the combat exclusion policy came about because of the discrepancy between official asments for women and the actual scope of their responsibilities—because of the realities of modern warfare where traditional battlefields and clearly defined enemy lines are evaporating. The repeal of combat exclusion merely brings policy in line with on-the-ground practice, a discrepancy rooted in definitional confusion. Within the U. The Army co-location asment restriction further stated that women could serve in any officer or enlisted specialty or position, except in those specialties, positions, or units of battalion size or smaller that were ased a routine missionto engage in direct combat or which co-locate routinely with units ased a direct combatmission.
This framework created confusion about the difference between the asment and the employment of women; women were performing in roles that could be considered combat-related despite not being formally ased to combat units. Harrell et al. Instead these women, along with their male colleagues trained as cooks, were performing other duties such as guard duty that placed them in greater danger.
There are also instances in which individuals or small units are attached to other units. These women serve as enablers for culturally sensitive functions such as talk to or frisk local women. Under the combat exclusion policy, enlisted women officially made up 2.
Among officers, women represented 5. Furthermore it was supported by a memo ed by the t Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the t Chiefs of Staff, as well as a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of four servicewomen. Once implemented, the change in policy will open to women six military occupational specialties and eighty units—more than 13, positions, mostly in the Army. The Army has said that it aims to open all remaining closed military occupational specialties about 6, positions, including infantry positions no later than January The career prospects for women serving in the military have been steadily improving: Between Fiscal Years andthe of women who constituted officer accessions across DoD increased percent, from 8 to 21 percent.
Over 65 percent of flag or general officers in the four DoD Services come from tactical career fields, but women have not been highly represented in tactical or operational career fields: 11 percent of active-duty female offers are in tactical occupations compared to about 41 percent of active-duty male officers. Particularly because combat asment offers an advantage for promotions and job opportunities, it has been more difficult for women to ascend to higher ranks.
All military Services identify command asments as key to building leadership credibility and thus important for officer advancement; and, in part due to their lack of tactical or operational experience, women are not highly represented in the candidate pools for command asments. For instance, female officers are more likely to leave the military between promotions, and reenlistment rates between Fiscal Years and were consistently lower for women than for men.
There is a prevalent belief that the poor are more likely to enlist in the military than their non-poor counterparts. Although the supporting evidence is mixed, 64 percent of military recruits in were from counties with a median household income lower than the national median, and the three largest schools or programs from which recruits were drawn were GED high school diploma alternative and job centers. Women from poor, rural areas can be expected to be more likely to enlist in the A few good women needed if their career progression prospects, and thus their expected pay, are greater.
The combat exclusion policy not only legalized sex discrimination with respect to military asments, but it may also have contributed to a hostile work environment for women.
Particularly in the Army, where women have been serving A few good women needed combat fields in an unofficial capacity, the opening of 13, asments formerly reserved for male candidates will potentially improve their visibility and, thus, their social status within the organization. The new asment policy is a step toward ending categorical exclusions and allowing all qualified candidates to compete for jobs and promotions. This policy is also an opportunity to advance the career progression, economic opportunity, and social equality of women in the military; evidence of which may begin to emerge now that the Services have drafted and begun implementing their own employment and asment policies.
During the debate surrounding gender inclusion in combat asments, however, several new issues came to light. For example, women are underrepresented in recent accessions across all Services, even those that had historically been more inclusive: Women comprise nearly 50 percent of the eligible recruiting pool but only 7 Marine Corps to 22 percent Air Force of recent enlisted accessions. These figures may be contingent on the of available positions or by enlistment eligibility criteria women are disqualified at a higher rate than men. The move towards gender inclusion in combat-related roles marks ificant progress and creates an opportunity for further improvement.
The DoD should next consider the standardization of enlistment eligibility criteria, the factors influencing women not to reenlist, individual bias across the Services—particularly among commanding officers, and the prevalence of sexual violence. These phenomena likely play an important role in the inclusion of women at all levels within the U. Fully understanding these issues, creating a truly inclusive work environment, and empowering women by putting necessary accommodations in place will create a more efficient and effective military organization.
Jennifer L. Jen is also interested in gender equality and corporate social responsibility. Harrell, Laura L. Miller Lolita C. Baldor Harrell, Jennifer Sloan Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons The inclusion of women in the United States military has been a topic of debate since the American Revolution. An Outdated Policy in Modern Warfare The repeal of combat exclusion merely brings policy in line with on-the-ground practice, a discrepancy rooted in definitional confusion. Career progression for servicewomen The career prospects for women serving in the military have been steadily improving: Between Fiscal Years andthe of women who constituted officer accessions across DoD increased percent, from 8 to 21 percent.
Economic power of servicewomen There is a prevalent belief that the poor are more likely to enlist in the military than their non-poor counterparts. Youths living in the most sparsely populated zip codes are 22 percent more likely to the Army, with an opposite trend in cities. Regionally, most enlistees come from the South 40 percent and West 24 percent. Author Biography Jennifer L. Department of Defense U. DoD ,A few good women needed
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