Women Women Will Get It Done: Women in the Military and Women Firsts

Women in the Military

In 2013, then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta lifted the ban on women serving in combat positions in the United States military. While many saw this as a positive step for women in the military, there are still many issues that need to be addressed to allow women the same opportunities as their male counterparts.

Of the over 722,000 enlisted reservists and National Guard troops, only 18% are women. Over 36,000 women serve in the officer corps but they makes up just 16.6% of the total corps. Additionally, among the top ranks, 7.1% of generals and admirals are women: 28 generals in the Air Force, 19 in the Army, one in the Marine Corps, and 21 admirals in the Navy. While the numbers of enlisted women and those who are officers have been increasing over the years, the male-dominated “tribal nature” of the military can be hostile to women.

The issue of sexual assault in the military has become a major issue for women’s rights advocates and military leaders. However, this issue needs continued attention and resources in order to change the culture of abuse and empower the victims. In 2014, 62% of women who reported being sexually assaulted while on-duty said they had experienced social or professional retaliation, primarily from their colleagues or peers.

In 2013, a law was passed making retaliation illegal but the number of women reporting retaliation stayed consistent in the following year. The military has made pledges of “zero tolerance,” the Senate has set-up coalitions to study the problem, documentaries have been made, and the media has reported extensively on the issue, but the problem persists. Research has found that the vast majority of cases go unreported, 85% were unreported in 2014. Victims of military sexual assault are often discharged or leave the service of their own volition losing opportunities to progress in rank and become the leaders the military needs.

Similar to any number of industries, if there are no women in the pipeline, finding women to fill high-level officer positions will be impossible. The U.S. military is the most powerful in the world and the current government plans to increase spending to build it up further. There is a great opportunity to encourage women’s participation in the armed services, protect them and their jobs, and create a stronger defense.

Women Firsts

1993 – Janet Reno was the first woman to become attorney general of the United States.

1995 – 19 year old Shannon Faulkner became the first female cadet to join the all-male military academy at the Citadel.

1997 – Madeleine K. Albright became the first woman to serve as Secretary of State.

2000 – Condoleezza Rice was the first black woman (and the second woman) to serve as the National Security Advisor to the president.

2005 – Angela Merkel became the first female chancellor of Germany.

2007 – Representative Nancy Pelosi became the first woman to be Speaker of the House.

2009 – Sonia Sotomayor became the first Hispanic and the third woman to become a Supreme Court justice.

2014 – Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

2016 – Hillary Clinton became the first woman in the United States to receive the presidential nomination from a major political party.

2016 – Kellyanne Conway became the first woman to manage a successful presidential campaign. [NYT, 4/2/17]

In 2014, 74% of women but only 52% of men disagreed with the following statement: “It is much better for everyone involved if the man is the achiever outside the home and the woman takes care of the home and family.” [NYT, 4/2]

Of the 774 million people who are illiterate around the world, two thirds are women. [Gender Avenger Blog, 4/2/17]

“Female justices on the Supreme Court are far more likely to be interrupted than their male counterparts.” Many male justices interrupt female justices at double-digit rates in the average term. From 2004 – 2015 “when women made up 24% of the bench, 32% of interruptions were of the female justices, yet only 4% of interruptions were by the female justices.” “In 2015, 65.9% of interruptions were directed at the three women on the bench.” This rudeness extends to the male advocates who appear before the court. [WP, 4/16/17]

Earlier this week, The Washington Post reported that Americans don’t like it when men-only groups make decisions about women. “Citizens don’t like all-male panels” the Post’s researchers found. Moreover, the study showed that American men seemed to dislike all-male panels “even more than American women.”

We take one small issue with this, which is, to put it bluntly: if men didn’t like all-male panels, there wouldn’t be so many all-male panels. Period. The article makes it seem as though the all-male panel is some inexplicable, naturally occurring phenomenon, but we’ve seen time and again that it isn’t. All-male panels happen when there is complete lack of effort or care to put together a gender-balanced event. [Gender Avenger Blog, 4/13]