As more female troops transition from active duty to civilian life, they face unique challenges: Lack of a community of fellow female vets, lack of child care assistance for single mothers and financial instability due to lack of financial literacy are all issues women veterans face, experts say. While some of these challenges affect all veterans, the issues are compounded for women because of cultural stereotypes and the gender pay gap.
The new Army Military Parental Leave Program, signed Tuesday, gives soldiers who give birth six weeks of maternity convalescent leave, starting immediately after discharge from a hospital. An additional six weeks of leave is available to the birth parent, or, in some circumstances, an active-duty spouse designated as the primary caregiver.
"Female Marines have asked for the ability to wear the male uniform or something similar to the male uniform," Mary Boyt, a member of the Marine Corps Uniform Board, said in a released statement. "We knew what the male uniform looked like, and we wanted to develop a female uniform that was similar to the males' but met the unique design challenges of the female shape. So, we didn't want to just throw a male coat on them and say this is it."
The Mandarin-style collar is cut a quarter of an inch shorter than on the male coat, and the waist and breast pockets have been removed for the women's version. The waist on the female coat is also more form-fitting. The shift from the traditional winged blazer collar for female Marines was part of a push by former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who said he wanted men and women in the sea services to look more uniform, regardless of gender. Female sailors and Marines also adopted male-style covers.
Wilson said she could recall exactly where she was when she saw a woman wearing pilot wings for the first time. "I was a cadet. I was at the base of the ramp at the Air Force Academy. I walked by, saluted her -- I was on my way to the cadet clinic -- and said, 'Ma'am, can I ask you a question?' It was something completely stupid like, 'Where'd you get those?' " Wilson said. "But I had been in the Air Force six years before I saw a full colonel who was a woman. I didn't feel limited in what I could be. But the fact that I noticed that when I saw it told me that young people need role models."
Tobias enlisted in the Navy in March 1974. When she asked a recruiter about going to dive school, he reportedly told her, "Women don't do that." When she finally got her opportunity to try out, she had to be able to handle the Mark V diving suit, which weighed 200 pounds, as well as scrutiny from some of her peers and others who didn't want women in the historically male-dominated field. "There were a lot of eyes waiting to see me fail. But unbeknownst to them, that just fed my intention to finish the course. I didn't want them asking less of women, ever, for anything," she said.
"It is very uncommon, even for this day and age, to be a female pilot, much less a female minority... The Air Force has always been on the forefront of breaking aviation and racial barriers. I am extremely proud of being the first black female U-2 pilot in history... My career field is very male-dominated, but I hope I have helped other females with similar aspirations to realize this is an option. I think we are all limitless as to what we can accomplish."
To date, more than 500 female soldiers have completed training to serve in infantry and armor jobs that only became opened to them in December 2015 when the Pentagon eliminated rules barring women from serving in certain military jobs, Lt. Gen. Thomas C. Seamands, the Army's chief of personnel, said during the Association of the U.S. Army's annual meeting in Washington, D.C.