A study commissioned by the Defense Department says that despite a 1993 Congressional order that opened up thousands of combat-related military jobs, very few women hold these positions.
Although women are now eligible to be assigned to any non-infantry positions for which they are qualified, there are only 814 women in the 47,844 jobs that became available to them a few years ago. While the report said the low numbers of women in the military overall (14%) may have contributed to the small percentage, it also found “a significant reluctance on the part of some commanders to abide by the law and allow women to fill the vacancies.” For example, to avert the law, some Army commanders require infantry experience for certain jobs, even though women are legally barred from infantry units.
The study found that “readiness, cohesion and morale” was scarcely affected by the integration of women into combat jobs. In a survey, only two out of 934 service members said that gender influenced a unit’s ability to do its job. About 80% of women in the military and more than half of all enlisted men support women working in combat positions on a volunteer basis. The only gender-related problems found by the study was resentment of pregnant women who couldn’t pull their weight in a troop or sexual relationships among unit members.
The Navy has done the best job of integrating women; it requires certain numbers of senior women officers on integrated ships. Women leaders were credited with aiding overall discipline, helping with transitional issues, and providing women with a positive behavioral role model.
The Defense Department is also in the middle of a yearlong study on whether or not the military has honestly given women equal opportunities.