So news was released this week that the United States is lifting the ban on women serving in combat. Gee, welcome to stepping out of the dark ages U.S.A…well at least tiptoeing out! I’ve read arguments from both sides – the logical side and the not so logical side. And though I can understand some of the concerns, I still find the fact this argument is even occurring in modern society to be, well, frankly ridiculous.
Most of the psychological concerns relate to the male view of the female persona, and thus a big part of the argument is that the male soldiers and American public would not tolerate large numbers of women potentially being killed in war.
It’s that thing called choice folks – free will and the ability to weigh the consequences and make our own decisions. If qualified women don’t want to take combat roles, that’s up to them. However, telling them they shouldn’t even have the option just because some of the country may get upset – GET OVER IT AMERICA!
As stated in an article in the Washington Post, critics argued for years that integration of women in combat could create a distracting; sexually charged atmosphere and that woman are unable to perform some of the more physically demanding jobs. The first part of the argument, c’mon men, we’ve all worked with attractive women at some point, and we’ve managed to remain professional – hopefully. I mean, who quits a job because they have hot colleague? Though, women have been let go from jobs because of their attractive physical appearance.
The latter part, well, I see that as a valid performance based argument. If a woman simply doesn’t have the physical strength to perform certain combat related jobs, then they don’t meet the performance requirements, and therefore should not be in those roles. However, I know some pretty strong women out there that I wouldn’t want to piss off - they have a pretty good chance at knocking me on my butt (I’ve been meaning to hit the gym more). So, simply because of their gender, is not a valid argument that a woman can’t perform a certain job function.
“Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance. ” - Kofi Annan
Lifting the ban will go a long way toward changing the culture of a male-dominated institution in which women have long complained about discrimination and a high incidence of sexual assault. As Carl Levin, D-Mich., said “It reflects the reality of 21st century military operations…”
When a transformational change like this occurs – particularly in change resistant organizations – developing new processes and training to help aide in the organizational and cultural changes is a necessity to ensure successful transition. Now, in support of the importance of performance based hiring and promotion, I don’t think the requirements and training to reach such positions should change. Though, hey, if the military really wants to keep pushing for equality, and physical strength is a concern, then offer additional targeted physical conditioning training for the women interested in combat roles.
To be fair to my fellow Americans, as a society, the United States has come a long way in a relatively short period of time regarding views and policies on diversity and inclusion. That said, as a nation, we still lag behind many other developed nations in regards to equality in the workplace. At least a half dozen other countries lifted similar bans on women in combat years ago.
Some of these countries also implemented policies for fair pay, anti workplace discrimination, and other equality legislation some time ago. They managed to deal with the, psychological, tactical, physical, process and cultural concerns…and their nations didn’t implode. Ours won’t either.
“Society as a whole benefits immeasurably from a climate in which all persons, regardless of race or gender, may have the opportunity to earn respect, responsibility, advancement and remuneration based on ability.” - Sandra Day O’Connor
So check your insecurities at the door. We have some catching up to do!
Update 6-19-13: Pentagon says women in all combat units by 2016
About Scott Span, MSOD: is CEO & Lead Consultant of Tolero Solutions - an Organizational Improvement & Strategy firm. He helps clients in facilitating sustainable growth by connecting and maximizing people –> performance –> profit™, creating organizations that are more responsive, productive and profitable.
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