The U.S. Government Accountability Office’s recent report on Military Personnel finds increases in the number of females entering the officer corps across all four branches of the military. Women make up about 17% of military officers of all ranks according to the Defense Department, up from 15.3% in 2005.
The Marine Corps reported the largest increase in the number of women entering the officer corps; 11.8% up from 7.6% in 2010. For the Army, the percentage of women entering the officer corps rose 21.4%, up slightly from 20.6% four years earlier. For the Navy, the percentage of women increased slightly to 22.7% from 22.5% in 2010. The Air Force’s female officers accounted for 27.4%, up from 27% in 2010.
According to the Pentagon, which offered perspective on the issue to the Military Times, female retention is a concern among top Pentagon officials who say women typically leave the service at higher rates than men. Military leaders are pushing policies designed to appeal to midcareer women and improve retention. For example, the Navy and Marine Corps recently expanded maternity leave to 18 weeks, and the Air Force recently adopted a rule assuring new mothers they will not have to deploy for one year after having a child.
All four service branches have recruitment efforts that target women, the GAO noted.
In law enforcement, recruitment and retention of female police officers is also a concern. According to the National Center for Women & Policing (NCWP), women are severely under-represented in police departments, accounting for only 13.0% of police officers across the country. This will vary by region, but recruiting women into law enforcement fits with the current focus on the benefits of diversity in the police force. For instance the NCWP reports that women police officers utilize a style of policing that relies less on physical force, and more on communication skills that defuse potentially violent situations.
In New York, the NYPD boasts very high rates of female representation. Women represent 34% of the police force according to 2013 Workforce Profile produced by NYC Government.