The Differences in Being in the Military for Women & Men

Despite a few differences, male and female soldiers have the same opportunities to advance.
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Aside from a few combat positions, men and women serve in the same military occupational specialties. Both genders must uphold moral values and lead with integrity. There are, however, a few differences in military policies and demographics. For example, the number of men in the military far outweigh the women. Of approximately 1.4 million service members, only 14.5 percent are women. This is down slightly from the previous decade -- in 2005, women made up 15 percent of the service. As laws change, however, so can the shift in the military population.

1 Combat Roles

In 2013, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta lifted the ban on women in combat. Military occupational specialties now open to women include artillery and infantry. Elite military groups such as the Navy SEALS and Army Rangers, however, remain closed. These services will evaluate the reasonableness of allowing women to serve and whether enough can pass the intense qualifications and training to warrant necessary changes to accommodate them. Privacy, for example, is a concern. The 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule cites the lack of privacy for female soldiers as a factor in disallowing their combat service. If all infantry units are mandated to make sleeping and bathroom accommodations for women, then the SEALS and Rangers would have to as well, even if either group ends up with just one woman on the team.

2 Maternity vs. Paternity

Female soldiers are entitled to six weeks of paid convalescent leave after giving birth. The leave is granted to allow the female soldier adequate time to recuperate from pregnancy and labor. The military grants paternity leave too, but limits the leave to 10 days. For the military to grant paternity leave, the male soldier must be married to the woman who gives birth, whether she is a civilian or a fellow soldier. Paternity and maternity leave do not count against accrued annual leave days.

3 Sexual Assault

According to military officials, more female soldiers than male soldiers report becoming victims of sexual assault. In 2014, the Pentagon released its annual report revealing that of the reported sexual assault cases, 3,132 victims -- 86 percent -- were women. The military doesn't discount the possibility there may be more male victims who don't report. Only 11 percent of service members who are victims report their sexual assault -- less than half of the 22 to 41 percent of civilian victims who report the crime.

4 Physical Fitness

Each military branch gives physical training tests to its troops, and they all have different requirements. Soldiers in the Army must run two miles while Air Force troops run one and a half miles. Passing standards for women in all services are usually lower. For example, a thirty-year-old man in the Army who has already graduated basic training must run two miles in 15:54 to pass, while a thirty-year-old woman needs to run two miles in 18:54. The Marine Corps is the only branch of service that gives women a different test. As of the date of publication, the Corps has attempted to level the standards, but is being met with resistance. For example, the Corps replaced the flexed arm hang in the female test with the pull-up test normally used for males, but halted the change due to the failure rate among women. Fitness standards for women who serve under the new combat policy will be required to maintain the same passing scores as men.

Michelle Dwyer is a U.S. Army veteran writing fiction and nonfiction since 2003. She specializes in business, careers, leadership, military affairs and organizational change and behavior. Dwyer received an MBA from Tarleton State University/Texas A&M Central Texas and an MFA in creative writing from National University in La Jolla, Calif.