Gender Stereotypes and Success in the Military

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Yesterday Command Sgt. Maj. Teresa L. King was made commandant of the drill sergeant school at Fort Jackson in South Carolina and is the first woman to fill such a position in any of the Army’s schools across the country. According to a recent article by James Dao of the NY Times women constitute a very small percentage of Army personnel in general (13%) and an even smaller percentage of the Army’s highest-ranking enlisted soldiers in active-duty (8%). The lack of female personnel and those in high-ranking positions has been attributed to “pregnancy, long hours and the prohibition against women serving in frontline combat positions” by the Army. Experimental research, particularly in the areas of gender and stereotyping, indicates that women are evaluated differently than men in military training which may also explain the lack of women in higher-ranking positions.

Boldry, Wood, and Kashy (2001) found that although there were no actual performance differences between male and female cadets men were perceived as having the motivation and leadership to succeed in the military while women were thought to have more feminine attributes that would impair performance. Other research has shown that the proportion of women in a given unit is related to performance evaluation such that when women represent a smaller/token portion of the unit their performance is rated lower than men, but when there was a higher proportion of women performance was rated higher than men (Pazy & Oron, 2001). It seems that perception, not performance, contributes to the maintenance of gender barriers in the military among other domains for both men and women. Hopefully, one day more of us can see the world and ourselves as Sergeant Major King does: “When I look in the mirror, I don’t see a female, I see a soldier.”

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First Woman Ascends to Top Drill Sergeant Spot

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Gender Stereotypes and the Evaluation of Men and Women in Military Training

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Sex proportion and performance evaluation among high-ranking military officers

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3 responses to “Gender Stereotypes and Success in the Military

  1. The job of the military is far too important for it to become a test bed for sociological experiments. For arguments sake let’s just assume that women are less adept at killing enemy soldiers/terrorists than men are. Since this is the job of the Army it would seem to me that men should lead that organization.

    If research indicates that women are better at killing our enemies then by all means they should be the military leaders.

    We have to put political correctness aside and focus on what the job entails, especially when it is a job that is so vitally important.

  2. That is a good point considering that CSM King was relieved on negative terms. Additionally all of the new attention on females serving is seeming to have a negative impact.
    Personally I believe the “girl power” slogans are annoying and literally make me cringe. I just want to exist and serve. My genetalia does not play a very significant role on past, present or future missions.

  3. It should not be based on gender it should be based on skill. Forget about the fact that one is a male and one is a female. Not all men are the same and not all women are the same. It has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with determination, skill and how well that person can apply their knowledge.

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