Compensation for female soldiers serving in combat roles
October 16, 2008 2:42 PM   Subscribe

Are female officers and soldiers materially affected because they are not allowed to serve in certain combat roles? Concrete data appreciated.

My friend and I had a very uninformed discussion about whether or not this is true. I believe that female soldiers are economically and socially disadvantaged because they are not allowed to serve in certain roles. Furthermore, with the changing nature of warfare (and the "universal front line") I believe that women are by necessity performing duties that they cannot be compensated for, either with hazard pay, medals, or promotions. But my position is backed up only by vague notions that I've read an article to this effect.

My searches today only bring up articles that look at the debate from the military's perspective: are women qualified, etc. Any data, pro or con, from the soldier's perspective would be helpful. Thanks!
posted by muddgirl to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I will point you to a comment I made here on the Blue. Suffice to say, yes, it affected medals for my mother in Gulf War I. (And, by extension, those of her crew)
posted by olinerd at 3:48 PM on October 16, 2008

i can't remember where i read it, but it was a fairly reliable source (ny times or suchlike) that barring women against combat means they are far less likely to command infantry or artillery units (i think), which are apparently the main pipeline to general's stars. there are women generals, of course, but only a few.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:20 PM on October 16, 2008

in other words--i don't know about the short term, but in terms of long term career success, yes.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:21 PM on October 16, 2008

You can still collect hazard pay even if you're in a "combat support" rather than "combat arms" role. Just because someone is in the Transportation or Aviation Corps doesn't mean they can't collect hazard pay. (And be exposed to real combat-related hazards.)

As to the point thinkingwoman makes, while some of the combat arms (which are men-only) may produce disproportionately more officers at the very highest ranks, I'm not sure what effect that has in terms of pay and promotions throughout the bulk of the service, where you're not really competing against people from other branches. I always heard that the average length of an officer's career was pretty short (I remember hearing 7 years or so, but no source on that).

This is anecdotal, but I remember hearing from a Chemical Corps officer (Chemical, at least in my experience, was the branch that nobody wanted to get put in) who was talking up the benefits of her branch to a very skeptical crowd of cadets, and claimed that it was easier to get promoted there than in other branches. Presumably this was because they have greater attrition and lower re-contracting, so if you stayed in after your initial commitment was up, there would be more slots available, but she didn't say. If that's true, because pay grades are standardized across all branches, it might be that the 'lower-prestige' branches actually are better choices if you're looking purely at pay/time served.
posted by Kadin2048 at 5:07 PM on October 16, 2008

Oh, yeah, I should point out, Mom got screwed on the medals, but she did get hazard pay, because she was deployed in a war zone. It's not just for people actually commanded into direct combat.
posted by olinerd at 5:49 PM on October 16, 2008

not sure exactly what you're driving at here. women are not allowed in special ops, special ops jobs come with incentive pays and massive street cred, so therefore there are certainly cases where women are denied economic and social benefits due to the specific combat-role restrictions currently in place. (SOF is just the easiest example)

your comments about the changing front lines are also confusing. any woman filling any military role is compensated exactly the same as a male in that same role (there are, of course, no exclusively female military roles). therefore if women are performing duties that they are not being compensated for, then any males performing those same duties would be equally undercompensated. the changing front lines affect everyone in uniform, regardless of gender.

as regards the topic of changing front lines, the army has made an effort in recent years to try to recognize support troops who find themselves in combat roles. one example is the creation of the Combat Action Badge (CAB) as a support-troop analog to the much-glorified Combat Infantry Badge (CIB), the latter being reserved for infantry troops only.

I haven't read "Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the US Army" myself, but the reviews I've seen look positive and you might find it interesting.
posted by bilgepump at 6:55 PM on October 16, 2008

Although I have no evidence to this point, I'm willing to bet that the rate of women killed while deployed will be less than that of men.

Not that this makes it OK, obviously, but it's still worth pointing out.
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:57 PM on October 16, 2008

just saw this one after looking up my last comment on amazon, another possibly interesting read:

Band of Sisters: American Women at War in Iraq (published 2007)

from the book description:
"In Iraq, the front lines are everywhere... and everywhere in Iraq, no matter what their job descriptions say, women in the U.S. military are fighting--more than 155,000 of them... such as the US's first female pilot to be shot down and survive, the military's first black female pilot in combat, a young turret gunner defending convoys, and a nurse struggling to save lives, including her own."
posted by bilgepump at 7:06 PM on October 16, 2008

A woman anywhere in a combat zone will still get all the same pay that a dude doing a similar job will get. There are actually very few roles that women are not allowed to fill like Navy Seals and very serious organizations like that where physical strength and stamina are critical to mission success. Women operate planes, helos, and trucks all the time in the desert and get shot at all the time. These ladies were in my squadron when they were the first all female C-130 combat crew. (BTW, I didn't actually read the thread, I'm sure it's drivel) One thing though, a Seal probly does get a big reenlistment bonus because of what he does, which a woman couldn't get because she can't be a Seal, but could probly get even more if she was a Nuclear Tech on a submarine or worked another high demand job.

The exclusion from combat isn't what would hurt a woman's career anyway; many people who have never, ever seen combat have had very successful careers. It's the glass ceiling that shuts 'em down. How many female 4 star Generals have you seen? Maybe 1 if you've been looking, because she's the only one ever. Also, remember that the people who hold power in the military aren't necessarily from a very specialized background. In the USAF, for example, the regime running the AF for the last 20 years has been the fighter pilots. First of all, there are plenty of female fighter pilots, second, the fighter is one of our least useful AF assets since Vietnam ended. We've gotten far more use from our bombers, cargo planes, and AFSOC assets than the fighters, but the fighters still ran things until this year. What this means is that the guys who have seen the least combat are the ones running the show (aside: this is why we have have spent billions on the F-22 which is a plane we don't need). So while a woman can't be a Navy Seal, the Seals don't run the Navy anyway, so it doesn't hurt her career.

Now granted, most soldiers of both sexes choose to get out before they could possibly make that kind of rank anyway (Dunwoody has been in since 1975), but while I have personally seen many female Colonels, I can recall seeing only 1 female General.
posted by tcobretti at 7:20 PM on October 16, 2008

[comment removed - this is getting a little far afield and is not a referendum on women in the miltiary, thanks.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:36 PM on October 16, 2008

your comments about the changing front lines are also confusing.

I think it's confusing because I myself don't know what I'm looking for. An example from my field: I'm imagining a situation where female engineers are (hypothetically) barred from travelling to client sites to perform marketing tasks, although they can travel for technical work (which has a large marketing component). Now, one of the components of promotion to the cushy, high-paying jobs is "dealing effectively with clients and promoting The Company." Since women are only allowed to perform technical tasks, rather than explicit "marketing" tasks, our contributions to marketing are institutionally overlooked (although our specific manager may value it).

I understand that female combat roles have greatly expanded in the Navy and the Air Force, but that they are still rather restricted in the Army, Marines, and other tasks. Again, I don't care about the debate as to whether women SHOULD have combat roles; I'm just looking for a critique of a woman's place in the military as it currently stands.
posted by muddgirl at 8:30 PM on October 16, 2008

Women aren't allowed on nuclear submarines, which later on disadvantages them in a very material way from becoming civil nuclear engineers in power plants. Apparently they're now allowed on nuclear surface ships, but the subs outnumber the surface ships.
posted by footnote at 9:06 PM on October 16, 2008

« Older People that actually wanted to have a baseball...   |   What are some good international fashion sites and... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.