As you likely know, the United States military has been completely volunteer based for nearly 50 years now. Unlike our grandfathers, we are no longer drafted in and forced to serve whether we want to or not.
Naturally, at least from a moral perspective, this is far better, as those serving these days actually want to be there. They believe in the cause and what they are fighting for, making them far more effective.
However, the problem is that there are fewer and fewer of such volunteers each year, as recent data proves. In fact, recruiting for just about every military branch in existence is so low that most departments are being forced into so major cutbacks, both with personnel and funding. And, as I’m sure you can imagine, that isn’t helping our military become any more ready for a fight, should one arise.
The growing problem has forced recruiting offices to completely rethink how, when, and even who they should be targeting as potential recruits. One thing, in particular, cannot be sacrificed, however. And that is diversity.
As an associate professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College, Lindsay Cohn says, “You have to have a culture that recognizes people with different backgrounds, different experiences, different ways of perceiving things, different languages, different cultures – that is useful. That’s not a weakness. It’s not a problem.”
What this means for the military is that they need more women. According to data from the Department of Defense, less than 20 percent of the services offered in the military are performed by women.
Now, to be clear, that’s still a hell of a lot more than there were just five years ago when some military occupation still banned females. But it’s not nearly what it needs to be, either to satisfy true diversity quotas or meet recruiting standards.
As Cohn told the Military Times, “We’re going to need to rely more on women.”
And that’s not just because the quotas need to be met.
As she recently explained during a panel at the Future of the All-Volunteer, All-Recruited Force symposium, women have a lot to offer the US military.
Besides, there is currently a bit of a problem with the young male population in the US.
According to data from multiple sources, women are now beating out men when it comes to having a college education, which is required for those in the officer corps. For example, when it comes to being college educated, only about a third of men ages 25-29 are. Compare this to the 44 percent of women in the same age range.
Women are also far less likely to have drug problems or criminal records. Data from Nicholas Eberstadt, a political economist at the American Enterprise Institute, says that a whopping one in seven American men has at least one felony conviction nowadays. And as you likely know, this can not only prevent individuals from attaining a good-paying job but also completely block attempts to join the military.
As a result, Richard Fry of the Pew Research Center has made a startling revelation: the number of men in the American workforce has been dropping steadily for the last 30 years.
All of this means that men can no longer be the focus of recruitment strategies. That isn’t to say that they and all that they can bring to the military aren’t important anymore. But clearly, the need for more women is vital.
As Cohn says, it’s basically about “expanding the pool” and deciphering how to attract the skills and talents needed from recruits, no matter what their backgrounds or gender may be.
Now, for many of us, we might think or assume that the military is already doing this somewhat. After all, it’s 2023, and everyone knows that women can do just about anything a man can.
However, changing the mindsets of a military steeped in male traditions for more than 150 years isn’t exactly going to happen overnight or without growing pains. We can make all the rules and policies that we want. But it doesn’t mean culture as a whole has changed.
But that’s exactly what needs to happen if the military is to grow or just continue to serve our country effectively.