Women have a long history in the military and their role has evolved from more of a support role, like Dr. Mary Walker, the first woman to be awarded the medal of honor in 1865, to a combat role, like Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester who became the first woman in the military to be awarded a silver star for direct combat in 2005.
As we celebrate Women’s History Month each March, we celebrate how far women in the military have come. Today, the military and veterans support groups are looking for ways to make the career more inclusive for women.
2021 AR-670 Uniform Standards
The military is actively looking for ways to recruit and retain women into the armed forces. Recently, the Army made some big changes to the AR-670 grooming standards to help with this initiative.
The goal was to create standards that allow a woman to feel like a woman both in and out of uniform. The regulation updates include allowances for nail polish, earrings, and more feminine hairstyles. The updates even included specific allowances for protective hairstyles for Black hair after many studies showed that the earlier standards could cause hair loss and permanent damage for some women.
Being a working parent isn’t easy, and those stressors can be compounded when you add in deployments and the rigors of military training. A 2017 report from the US Government Accountability Office showed that servicemembers who leave because of parenthood struggles, like childcare, are disproportionately female.
Many bases offer free childcare for soldiers, which is one way to support female soldiers who are also mothers. However, deployment is still a tough issue for parents across all military branches—especially if both parents are serving.
Women in Leadership
There are more women in the military today than ever before. In fact, percentages have doubled in most branches, but the total percentage of women in the military is still low—coming in at 16%. And the number of women in leadership positions is even lower.
According to the same report from the US Government Accountability Office, many women in the military don’t see a path to leadership because they lack good female leaders. There are some great role models, like Lori Robinson who made history in 2016 when she became the highest-ranking woman in the military as the commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), but her position is the exception and not the rule.
The military is currently looking for ways to retain women in their ranks and finding pathways to leadership is definitely on the list.
Veteran Charities for Women
Many veterans suffer from mental health issues, and women are no exception. As more and more women are becoming veterans, there are more advocacy groups to help support female veterans’ mental health, help them find housing, gain employment and get their finances in order.
Grace Under Fire is another female-focused veterans’ organization that helps empower women to transition into civilian life and be productive in her community.
We know that there’s still lots of room for improvement when it comes to recruiting and retaining women in the armed forces, but we’re excited to see how the various branches are addressing the issue moving forward.