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Women Rising to Higher Levels in DoD, Official Says

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, VA., March 31, 2005 – Women are rising to increasingly higher levels in the Defense Department, a DoD official told the audience during the department's Women's History Month observance here March 30.

The nation's security relies on the quality and commitment of men and women who serve in uniform and the civilian employees who support them, said Janet C. Hoffheins, deputy director, DoD Civilian Personnel Management Service, Human Resources Automated Systems.

"A large part of that workforce is and will continue to be comprised of highly competent and dedicated women," said Hoffheins. In pointing out women's support during contingencies, she quoted an excerpt from a 1941 article titled "Women at War: Redstone Arsenal World War II Female 'Production Soldiers,'" taken from the Huntsville (Ala.) Times:

"When the call went out for female applicants, hundreds of housewives, mothers and even grandmothers promptly dropped their household tasks and volunteered their services to respond to the government's call for assistance. They did not have the luxury of dropping their family and household obligations to do so. Children had to be cared for; household chores had to be done, either before or after work; shopping and other errands had to be accomplished."

Hoffheins noted that women in today's work force are responding the same way today. "Not only are they responding, but they're making progress in entering nontraditional jobs, achieving greater educational levels and they're progressing to ever-higher levels within DoD," she said.

"As we move forward into the 21st century, our challenge is to ensure that the department attracts and retains the best and brightest ... the right people with the right skills to achieve the mission," Hoffheins said. "This is more of a challenge today than it has ever been in the past, because of significant changes in the labor market."

The latest Government Accountability Office study, she said, shows the federal government is experiencing a recruitment and retention crisis, and that the problems will worsen in the future as demographic and technological changes occur. GAO said the recruitment and retention problems would pose a major risk to the continued quality of government services and programs.

"Therefore," Hoffheins continued, "attracting and recruiting quality people for defense positions becomes the crucial first step in support of readiness."

She added that improving the skills of the existing work force, while at the same time recruiting and educating new people, is and will continue to be a top priority of the department.

Even with all the problems and potential problems, DoD has always been successful in ensuring that opportunities are there for women in the workplace, Hoffheins pointed out.

Using data sources from the Defense Manpower Data Center and the U.S. Census Bureau, Hoffheins compared the status of DoD women in 1995 to their status in 2004.

Statistics show that officer and enlisted women on active duty increased from 13 percent to 15 percent between 1995 and 2004. Women in the DoD civilian work force decreased by about 2 percent, from 38 percent to 36 percent. Women made up 47 percent of the labor force in 2004, compared to 46 percent in 1995.

The number of active duty women officers has increased since 1995 in several nontraditional occupations, according to the reports. For example, in 2004, there were more women officers in engineering and maintenance, tactical operations and supply and procurement than in 1995. The same is true for enlisted women, except their numbers decreased from 15 percent in 1995 to 14 percent in 2004 in the engineering and maintenance occupations. However, the percent increased in tactical operation and supply and procurement during that period.

"DoD civilian women have also made some gains in the professional and technical occupations ... since 1995," Hoffheins said. "Their numbers have increased from 42 percent in 1995 to 45 percent in 2004 in those fields."

In the higher grades, the proportion of active duty women in the grade O-4 and above increased from 11.2 percent in 1995 to 12.7 percent in 2004, she said. Hoffheins added that the same is true for active duty women in grades E-7 through E-9, who went from 8.3 percent to 9.6 percent in 2004.

"In the grades GS-13 through senior executive service, the percentage of women increased from 18.9 percent in 1995 to 27.5 percent in 2004," she noted.

She pointed out that the top five occupations in 2004 for active duty women officers in grades O-4 and above were nurses, physicians, biomedical sciences and allied health officers, health services administration officers, and manpower and personnel.

The top five occupations for active duty enlisted women in grades E-7 through E-9 were general administration, supply administration, general personnel, general medical care and treatment, and operators and analysts.

The top five DoD civilian occupations for women in grades GS-13 and above include management and program analysis, contract specialist, information technology management (formerly computer specialist), administration and program management, human resources management and general attorney.

Hoffheins said when you think of mission readiness - recruitment and retention - you must also think of education because the educational level of DoD's military and civilian work force is an important component of readiness.

"The percent of women officers and enlisted personnel with a high school diploma or above has decreased slightly since 1995," she noted, adding that a similar decrease occurred in the number of women in the civilian work force with a high school diploma.

For college level, she said in 1995, 20 percent of active duty women earned bachelor's degrees or higher, and 23 percent of civilian women earned those same degrees. In 2004, 19 percent of active duty and 31 percent of DoD civilian women earned bachelor's degrees or higher.

"Women are also a significant factor in creating diversity in a work force," Hoffheins said. "Diversity can improve organizational performance, improve workplace relations, build more effective work teams and improve customer service."

She went on to say that DoD has "long been known to have a more diverse work force than the overall U.S. labor force. The female active duty force is even more diverse than the female DoD civilian and U.S. labor forces."

"In 2004, data reflects that almost half of active duty women," Hoffheins said, one-third of civilian women and just over a quarter of women in the U.S. labor force were nonwhite."

The mainstay of retention is putting people first by developing sound recruiting strategies, followed by comprehensive programs to recognize positive contributions and improve the quality of life for the DoD workforce and their families, according to Hoffheins.

She said, among other things, DoD must continue to improve our process to provide for adequate compensation, family-friendly programs, such as telework and flexible work arrangements, employee empowerment, job enrichment and a work force free of discrimination.

"It's our challenge to continue to support our troops and to make sure they have what they need to defend our nation today and in the future," Hoffheins said. "To do this, we must work to ensure that we manage the work force properly - so we can continue to attract and retain the best and brightest."

And with that emphasis, Hoffheins said, in addition to acknowledging and celebrating the accomplishments of women, DoD should continue to encourage and monitor the progress of women as a vital and valuable contribution to the defense of the nation.

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