Thursday, April 09, 2020

Women and the Space Force

Historically, the Air Force recruits the most women of any branch in the military, with women comprising 20% of its active duty service members in comparison to 15% of the Army, 19% of the Navy and 9% of the Marines. However, with the creation of the Space Force, there is potential for this to change. Because the Space Force is so new, it has the opportunity to create a more inclusive and diverse force than its counterparts. The Director of Planning for the U.S. Space Force, Air Force Major General Clinton Crosier plans to aggressively court women to join by designing policies that enable career flexibility and ensure a welcoming environment. 

However, this may not be as easy as it sounds. The Space Force recently listed five areas of focus: space operations, space engineering, space intelligence, space acquisition and science, and space cyber. All five of these areas fall under STEM, a category that still struggles to recruit and retain women. In the American workforce, women make up only 28% of STEM jobs. The numbers grow even more dismal when examined closely. Of that 28%, only 16% work in engineering and 26% work in computer and mathematical science. Additionally, only 17% of the active duty military is female.

One way the Space Force might attract women is by pursuing a more generous maternity leave policy (The Department of Defense offers 12 weeks paid leave, a relatively recent policy. Before 2016, service members received only six weeks). The Marine Corps, which struggles immensely with female enlistment and retention, recently proposed a year-long maternity leave policy to allow new mothers more flexibility. One of the main reasons women leave the Marines (or any branch) is to raise a family. Likewise, the Navy has implemented many policies over the past few years to assist mothers to raise families while staying in their current roles. These include the Career Intermission Program, a sabbatical that allows sailors to take up to three years for familial reasons, more flexible, low-cost child-care programs, and more education and resources on pregnancy and breast-feeding while serving. The Space Force has also already shown willingness to listen to women by consulting civilian experts as well as hiring Patricia Mulcahy as Director of Manpower and Personnel. 

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