Women in the Military

If you are interested in becoming a part of the Armed Services in the United States of America, you stand a much better chance of being an integral member of the branch of your choice. With the advent of the ending of the draft in 1973 and the United States adopting an all volunteer armed forces, many more women have volunteered for the services. According to Rand's National Defense Research Institute, "the number of With this increase came pressure to open more units and career fields to women. Between 1992 and 1994, legislative changes and policy changes were made to increase opportunities for women." (Rand, pg. 1) Although women had been in the service before this time, they were mainly in supportive positions, i.e. office personnel and nurses. The outcome of the research found that women are able to participate in more opportunities but that the differences among the services very greatly. There are more than 250,000 additional positions opened up to women but it does not mean that women have entered into those fields, and most of those fields are "gender neutral".

The highest percentages of openings for women are in the Air Force at 99.7%. This is a small percentage change because they have always had a greater percentage of openings for women than other services. There are 77,000 active duty women in the Air Force, a percentage of 14% of the total active duty force. "Women are prohibited by statute from serving in aircraft that would be engaged in combat missions, although female medical, dental, chaplains, and other such professionals are specifically exempted from this prohibition." (e.serve.org, pg. 5) It is ironic that our Air Force trained Danish women to be fighter pilots but will not train American women to do the same.

The largest gains for women were made by the Navy and the Marine Corps: today, women can serve in 91% of the billets (camps) which is an increase of 30% and like the Air Force, they have more career enhancing opportunities. They can fly combat aircraft and serve on combat ships, they still remain excluded from submarine duty because of the housing restrictions. The Marine Corps almost doubled the positions opened up to women and they plan to expand their presence as soon as living conditions and living arrangements on ships can be addressed and satisfied. Even with their huge increase, they are still 13-15% below the percentages of the other services. Women are still excluded from direct ground combat in the Marines. There are only 10,000 active duty women in the Marine Corp., which is only 5% of the duty force with only 20% of the jobs open to women.

The Army also excludes women from direct ground combat and that affects a lot of positions that would have been opened to women. These positions are the ones that would lead to advancement in the service, although there are 86,000 women active in the Army, which constitutes 11% of the active duty personnel. The Army has an unofficial policy of limiting the number of women in any one unit by sending "surplus women to work in other occupations and some commanders refuse to assign women to newly opened units based on their interpretations about what constitutes collocation (the gathering of) with a unit engaged in direct combat." (Rand, pg. 2)

The only service that has 100% job availability for women is the Coast Guard. At present there are only 2,600 women in the guard (7%). Even though the Coast Guard is part of the Department of Transportation, the statutory restrictions that have pertained to men and women in the military, do not apply here. Women have served aboard Coast Guard ships since 1977. Several women command coastal patrol boats and also serve as Anti-submarine Warfare officers.

The worst armed force for women at the present time is the Navy. Although there are 57,000 women on active duty in the Navy, a percentage of 10% of the active duty force, the Navy has statutes restricting opportunities for women, "they cannot serve on ships, fly aircraft that are designated as combat by the Navy, however; women are allowed to serve temporary duty on combat ships and to train men to fly combat planes". (eserver.org, pg. 4) As of today, there are 7,700 women currently serving on over 100 Navy auxiliary ships, such as repair, research, training ships and civilian contract ships.

It is apparent that the armed services is attempting to make changes in order to utilize available man power (in this case, woman power) that will keep them in military readiness. There have been numbers of surveys which showed the public did not object to women being in positions of combat but there were concerns involving morale and cohesion of the selected units. A study performed by Margaret C. Harrell and Laura I. Miller, of Rand's National Defense Institute to track the progress of women shows that "women have had a small effect on readiness, cohesion and morale--leadership, training, and the unit workload are perceived as having a far more profound influence." (www.rand.org/publications, pg. 1)

While the pay standards for the services are a little different from that of civilian life, the same double standards are applying in the military. Although there have been rate increases in those personnel with college degrees, of which most are women, the level is still not the same as the male counterpart, also the same as with civilian pay, there is a large gap between the enlisted men's pay and that of the officers.

If you are interested in going into the military, there are many things you need to do before making your decision.

  1. Research and find out which branch is the best for you.

  2. Be aware that although the armed services has made many strides, their are many more to go.

  3. Know that the military is beneficial to those who plan on continuing their education and maybe buying a house later in life.

Works Cited

Davis, James A., Jennifer Lauby, and Paul B. Sheatsley. Americans View the Military: Public Opinion in 1982. Chicago, IL: National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago, April 1983.

Hosek, James and Jennifer Sharp. Issue Paper: Keeping Military Pay Competitive: The Outlook for Civilian Wage Growth and Its Consequences.

Facts About Women in the Military, 1980-1990.

Harrell, Margaret C. and Laura L. Miller. Rand Research Brief: Military Readiness: Women Are Not a Problem. 1997.

1990 NOW National Board Policy: Women in the Military

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