The Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Service (DACOWITS), the panel of experts that advises the Pentagon on the state of female service members, has released its annual report, which addresses possible improvements in several key areas. Here are some highlights:
* Recruitment and retention efforts should be tailored to inform capable women of opportunities military service offers, such as travel, education, and the opportunity to help others. Marketing efforts also should focus on “realistically portraying women who serve.”
* Efforts to integrate women into all facets of military service, including previously closed jobs – would benefit from better “collaboration and communication” among the armed services.
* Even as more opportunities are open to women, the Marine Corps is lagging because it still will not fully integrate women in recruit training. The panel also advised that the Marines stop entering references to pregnancy in performance evaluations.
* More work is needed in providing military women with appropriate and functional personal protective equipment.
* Despite concerted department-wide efforts to confront and eliminate sexual harassment and gender discrimination, such behavior has “continued to persist in the ranks.”
* Parental leave policies need to be enhanced, “to expand eligibility and increase flexibility for military parents.”
* Fewer female service members take advantage VA benefits when they leave the service than do their male counterparts. The panel recommended that VA change gender-specific pronouns in its literature to words that would be more inclusive. This would include scrapping or altering VA’s motto, “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan,” which was written by President Lincoln when he established VA in 1865. The department adopted the motto in 1959.