Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James is proud that the Air Force has the largest proportion of women out of all the military services, but says that the numbers just aren’t high enough, reports Stars and Stripes.
For Secretary James, more women should be placed in senior ranks, and combat positions traditionally closed off to women should start to open in the beginning of 2016, as soon as standards are reformed to be “gender-neutral.” Seven types of jobs still remain closed to women, but James hopes to break down the barriers and include women.
“The not-so-good news is that I don’t see why we can’t do better on that overall percentage,” said James at news conference in Hawaii. James became secretary 11 months ago in December. “If we’re upwards to 20 [percent] today, why can’t we be upwards to 30 percent in the years to come?” Her predecessor Leon Panetta allowed women in special operations and set in motion plans to remove barriers to entry for all positions.
Apart from discussion about standards is an even more close to home discussion about reducing the workforce by about 20,000. The cuts mostly affect active-duty airmen before it touches the Reserve and National Guard airmen. A few thousand civilian jobs are also on the chopping block. Some have been forced out, while others have been given incentives to leave voluntarily. (RELATED: Hagel to shrink Army to pre-WWII level)
In the meantime, another serious concern for James has been why women have double the attrition rates at the mid-career level than men, and how the trend can be reversed. “So we need to bore down and figure out why that is happening and how we can turn that around,” she added.
James is currently on her first tour of Air Force bases in the Asia-Pacific region. After Hawaii, James will continue to Guam, Japan, Alaska and other bases.
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