Women in Leadership

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Are Female Military Leaders Truly Given a Chance to Lead?

American Military University
October 29, 2009

It is no secret that military organizations create and cultivate high-performance leaders. The military services “focus on developing persons even at the expense of organizational performance” (Hemingway, 2007). Service academies exist purely to mold new leaders and an officer’s entire career is carefully tracked by higher headquarters to ensure leadership experience and skills are gained with each assignment. In order to attain the highest ranks in the military, one must have leadership experience-- and that is certainly something that cannot be taught in an academy. Experience leading troops is only gained over time and in opportunities presented. Individuals who are never presented an opportunity to lead, teach, or do, are rarely successful and eventually pushed out of the service. Females within the military are many times excluded from such an opportunity. Without approval to serve in ground-combat, they are at a disadvantage to their male counterparts to receive that coveted experience and therefore rise to the highest ranks. What are some barriers to their success, other than the obvious? What can be done to provide women leaders with the same opportunities for advancement if they are not allowed to fight in combat? This paper will discuss these topics as well as offer solutions of how the military can level the playing field for female leaders to reach the highest levels of military rank. History Female integration into the military have always generated a plethora of research and debates. Their effectiveness and leadership style has been an easy topic of conversation for some time. Females have served in different capacities throughout all of America’s great conflicts, however, it was only fairly recently that female were officially authorized by the government to serve on active duty. In 1948 the Female's Armed Services Integration Act was passed by Congress. The implications of this Act limited the total number of females allowed in each rank and prevented females from having any command authority over male troops, however it still granted females permanent status in the Regular and Reserve forces of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps as well as in the newly created Air Force (Doll, 2008, p. 2). In the 1970’s the military went through a drastic change in their demographics. The draft was eliminated and an all-volunteer force was put into place. Enlistment was low, and Department of Defense saw the opportunity to eliminate troop shortages and fill vacant positions with females. Public Law 94-106 was signed in 1975 ordering all U.S. service academies to open their doors to female applicants, “thereby creating conditions in which female officers would lead men” (Doll, 2008, p. 2). This was a major milestone for women pursuing leadership roles in the military as graduates of these academies make up the largest percentage of officers within the service.

In 1970 Brigadier General Anna Mae Hayes became the first woman general officer in United States military history (Hames, 2009, p. 10). What is important to note is female officers from this time period were only found in the medical career field, where they are considered non-line officers, meaning they are non-combatants during times of war. In operational circumstances line officers may hold positional authority over non-line officers of higher rank. As of October 2009 there are less than sixty female general officers. In 1972, 1.8 percent of Army soldiers were female. In 1991, the ratio had risen to 11 percent. By 2005, the number was 14.3 percent. As of October 2008, the Department of Defense shows 15.3 percent of active duty Army are female. As of October 2009, 19.2 percent of total Air Force members are female; with 18.4 percent of...
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