Study: Five Myths about Women in Combat (Washington Post, 2011, Blair)
Finding: Five common myths surrounding women and their leadership abilities in the military and in combat situations are unfounded and women are capable of serving in the same capacity as their male counterparts in all areas of military service, including combat.
Note about The Woman Effect Research Index: This study was performed by researchers not affiliated with InPower Women. Our Research Index includes all relevant research to the subject of women, business and power. We do not influence how the research was conducted or reported by the researchers. In our abstracts, we focus on pulling out the most actionable advice for individual women. To suggest additional research we should index, or discuss our choice of abstract focus, please contact us
InPower Insight: Allow women the same training and opportunities as men and see that they are just as capable of being effective leaders in and out of combat.
This article written by Maj. Jane Blair, Marine Corps Reservist, looks to debunk five common myths surrounding women in combat and cites several studies in support of her conclusions. Major Blair looks at each of these myths, breaks them down, and exposes them as evidence that women might be granted the same duties and opportunities as their male counterparts.
- Women are too emotionally fragile for combat: The article suggests that there is no concrete evidence to suggest that women are more vulnerable in terms of combat stress. Women train for combat in the same environments as their male counterparts and therefore both sexes become mentally conditioned the same way.
- Women are too physically weak for the battlefield: While their male counterparts might have more upper body strength, women have physical abilities that allow them to “offer unique capabilities in combat”. For example, distance running is extremely relevant to combat performance. Women can also tolerate hotter climates.
- The presence of women causes sexual tension in training and battle: Major Blair states in her article that she was always treated as a marine first and a woman second and has found gender bias and/or sexual tension to be more prevalent in the corporate world than in the military. Blair further states that “the presence of women might improve rather than detract from the service of men.”
- Male troops become distracted from their missions in order to protect female comrades: This is a myth created under the assumption that a male on a mission would abandon his assault on the enemy to save his female comrade. In fact, the marine who writes this article explains that all members of the military are trained to save their comrades when they can.
- Females cannot lead men in combat effectively: Women are expected to their pull their weight and prove that they can achieve several tasks and have proven their worth as leaders in the military and in combat. Major Blair believes that “if we trained women to be leaders in combat as we train men to be leaders in combat, why wouldn’t they perform just as well? But women do not receive intensive infantry training because they are excluded not just from combat roles, but from serving in combat units at all. This is the same discrimination that kept women from voting — the idea that they were not qualified to do so.”
Career Coaching Tip: Whether you’re in the military or not, knowing that women have succeeded and excelled in even the most male of environments can give you courage to handle whatever sexism and testosterone-induced cultural realities you face. Women’s performance, reliability and skill in combat and other service positions lead the 2009 study focus group participants – active duty military – to conclude that there were no reasons women should be barred from having all the same opportunities that men did when it came to combat and every other military job. It’s their choice and your choice how much of machismo you want to deal with in the culture you work in, but know that women survive and thrive in all cultures, including the most male and the most physical. Feel good about your choice.
Category: Cultural Trends
Keywords: myths, female soldiers, military
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