You are on page 1of 12


Running Head: Women in the Military

Women in the Military: A Literature Review

Natalie Brooke Neufeld
University of Texas at El Paso
RWS 1302

The recent decision to integrate the United States military was met with a variety of
different emotions. For many, it was a misguided decision that would destroy combat
effectiveness and have negative impacts on United States security. Various objections
were brought up to justify keeping women out of the military, but after years of
integration, equality is as close as ever. The role of women in the military has a very long
history, and will continue to change for years to come. Women have fought long and hard
to define their place in the military, and it has been a fight filled with many victories and

Women in the Military: A Literature Review

In the United States, the role, status, performance, and the treatment of women in
the military is a major gender issue. (Simon, 2015) During World War II, the initial
induction of women into the armed forces was challenged. People wondered whether the
military needed more members, whether these women should be considered official
members, and whether they could carry out the duties required by the profession. (Decew,
1995) Those opposed to the induction of women argued that training these females would
be expensive and ineffective. These same individuals believed that a woman could not
endure the discipline it took to be a member of the military, and that militarized women
would become too masculine, thus ruining American culture. (Simon, 2015)
Since the year 1978, women have been able to openly enlist in the military, but
that did not necessarily mean that they were actually signing up for duty. Acceptance of
female members of the military is a topic that continues to change as time passes by. In
this review, the following four questions will be answered and analyzed in an attempt to
better understand the subject of women in the military:
1. What are some difficulties women in the military face?

2. What are some advantages women have in the military?

3. What does the future have in store for women in the military?

4. What is life like in the military according to an interview with an active

female soldier?

What are some difficulties women in the military face?

Life for a woman in the United States military can be very hard. There is very
little in history books regarding or focusing on military women, obscuring them from the
public view. (Simon, 2015) When these women were mentioned to the public, many
times writers wrote in opposition to womens integration and even blamed them for
problems in the military. Females looking to join the military were thought to have
inadequate physical abilities, and biological impairments such as menstruation,
menopause, and emotional instability. (Simon, 2015) Other times when female soldiers
were mentioned in the press, there was an emphasis placed on trivialities. Women were
objectified, and even made the butt of gendered jokes to the public.(Simon, 2015) Those
women who were able to overlook the discrimination and continue in the military field
were confined to feminized jobs such as nursing and caretaking, and had many genderspecific restrictions that made it hard to work happily and peacefully. There was no
military or governmental support of these women, and they suffered from inequality in
pay and benefits. (Goldman, 1973) Females were constrained from utilizing their talents
and skills fully, which decreased the amounts that were willing to work for the United
States military. The way women in the military were portrayed to the public hid their real
achievements in the workplace. Not only did this portrayal hide achievements, it also hid
the inequality that existed in the field.

When Legislation finally gave women permanent regular status in the military,
restrictive policies that came with them discouraged them from actually enlisting as a
permanent, regular member. Women were forbidden from participating in active combat
for many years and this sparked a debate that lasted for decades. (Hoppen, 2006) Many
people would not consider putting a woman in a trench with a rifle, regardless of whether
she wanted to be there or not. These females were seen as inferior than men, and were
discriminated against before even given a chance to prove themselves as worthy. It was
no secret that women were minorities in the military, and this opened the door for a
whole new wave of difficulties. When surrounded by males, these ladies are at risk of
being abused mentally, physically, and sexually which is not something most male
military members face. A percentage of females enlisted in the military are mothers, and
for many of them a lack of family balance is an issue. While deployed a mother misses
out on many milestones in her childs life, which may put pressure on relationships. The
list of difficulties a woman in the military may face is lengthy, and despite inequality and
discrimination these women continue to fight for their right to serve the country.
Resistance to womens involvement in the armed forces is alive and real, no matter how
necessary and successful their contributions are. (Hasday, 2009)

What are some advantages women have in the military?

The military has, and will always, need women in at least one way or another.
Allowing for a mixed gender military population force in turn makes the military stronger
and more diverse. In a modern day high-technology battlefield, technical expertise and
decision-making skills are becoming increasingly more important and valuable than plain
brute strength. The amount of women in an organization or group can drastically affect
the collective intelligence as shown in the figure below.

Figure 1. The Female FactorThe chart plots the collective intelligence of the 192 teams in
the study against the percentage of women those teams contained. The bar indicates the
range of scores in the group of teams at each level and the circle indicates the average.
Source: Harvard Business Review, Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business.

The military has been seen as a masculine career since its beginning, but thanks to
women taking on these roles, cultures are changing. The subculture of masculinity is
evolving as well thanks to the women who are taking on these male-oriented jobs. The
more women who enter the military field, the faster these cultures transform. Evidence
has shown that the media extensively reported on women in non-traditional fields such as
the military, and how the female percentage has increased. Although numbers are rising,
the military is still the field with the least amount of female leaders as shown in the figure

Figure 2. Percent of Women in Leadership Positions by Sector

Having a wider and more diverse personnel base in the military allows for the best
and most diplomatic individuals to work at ending a conflict quickly, so women have the

advantage of helping solve issues more efficiently than men alone. Another advantage
women have in the military has to do with education. If a female wishes to get an
education after high school but cannot afford it, the military can offer resources that can
make it possible to obtain higher education. On the other hand, women who wish to start
a career outside of the military have an advantage. The training and experience obtained
while working for the military can be very beneficial for a number of civilian careers.
This previous experience and credibility can make it much easier to get a job after the
military. Although criticism remains high towards females in the military, it is obvious
that women are far too integrated and useful to be removed from the system without
causing serious damage.

What does the future have in store for women in the

Throughout time, it has been made obvious that women will continue to be further
integrated into the military. Little by little, military leaders dropped barriers and got rid of
restrictions, which opened more jobs for females. (Simon, 2015) In 2013, the ban
preventing women from serving on the frontlines in active combat was lifted. This was a
breakthrough for female soldiers, seeing as it took decades for the decision to be made.
Currently in 2016, all jobs in the military are open to women, making it more likely for
them to want to join the military. (Wilcox, 1990) Recent studies show that group
intelligence can rise when both men and women are incorporated, which will have a
positive affect on decision making in the armed forces. (Devilbiss, 1990) While many are

thrilled with the newfound equality in the workplace, there are some who fear that
physical standards may be lowered to accommodate the female need. If these standards
are lowered, it may impact the overall wellness and effectiveness of the military. It is
mandatory that our military demands appropriate, professional behavior and enforces it.
Women have and will continue to be effective resources within every single rank of the
military. (Huguet, 2010)

What is life like in the military according to an

interview with an active female soldier?

While every job in the United States can be stressful and overwhelming, working
in the United States military is at the top of the list of stressful jobs according to IT2
Anna Neufeld. While the work can be very rewarding, it can also put a lot of strain on the
personal life. Not only does this soldier utilize her brain and intelligence to carryout her
obligations, she also has to keep her body in peak physical shape to meet the
requirements set by military leaders. (Neufeld, 2016) While deployed overseas, this
soldier also faces hardships that have to do with her gender. Being surrounded by mainly
men for months at a time can be exhausting seeing as she always has to work harder to
prove she is not inferior to them. Her work is scrutinized from time to time only because
her male bosses feel the need to double check her work for accuracy, most likely because
she is a woman. Although a small percentage of her male colleagues see her as
different, the majority of her male coworkers pay no attention to her gender and dont
let it taint their expectations of her. One particular piece of information provided by the

interviewee was that she experiences discrimination from other female soldiers more than
the males. She went into detail about how the ones who where hardest on the women
were in fact, other women. (Neufeld, 2016) After a career of trying to prove their worth,
many of the women want it to be known that they are equal, even if that means judging
others in the same predicament. It is not easy being a woman working in a maledominated career, but it is even harder working amongst women who want to prove
themselves by any means necessary. IT2 Neufeld made it clear that although there are
hardships that accompany her job, there is no other field of work she would want to be
involved with because the benefits and experience she gains daily make everything worth
it. (Neufeld, 2016)

Being a woman in the military is not an easy thing to do. In the past, women were
considered fools for trying to participate in an area that wanted nothing to do with them.
It took years of hard work for individuals to see that women are useful and resourceful
when it comes to military matters. The amount of prejudice and discrimination these
female soldiers endure is enough to break any persons spirit, but these tough individuals
do not let it interfere with their decision to work for the United States military. There are
advantages and disadvantages just like there are with any other job, and it is a personal
choice whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. The future of women in the
military is continuing to appear more equal, and it is likely that the percentage of female
members will increase with time. Not every female has what it takes to be an active
member in the military, but for those who do have what it takes the benefits and
possibilities are endless.


Simon, R. J. (n.d.). Women in the Military. Transaction.