While I was still in Iraq, I had an interesting conversation with one of
the leaders in my chain of command. I asked why some females were
allowed to get away with murder and why others, like myself, were held
to the same standard at the males.
The response was nothing short of shocking. I was told that they were
easier on me as a female. This completely turned my world upside down,
because I’d been wire brushed in front of the entire brigade leadership
and pushed to make the mission happen. I truly believed I was being held
to the same standard.
This caused me to do a significant amount of soul searching. Was I truly
performing on par with my peers or was it simply because I was a girl
that my performance stood out among mediocre females. I asked trusted
confidants if they thought this was the case: was I being let off the
hook b/c I was a female.
My mentors said no. They said I busted my ass and it was visible to
everyone. There was a reason the brigade commander came to me when there
were coms issues at NTC. There were reasons why people on the staff
sought me out when they needed something done. No, I was not simply a
girl who got things done: I got things done and that, at the end of it
all was what mattered.
Despite these reassurances, the remark still stings to this day. I’m
conscious of the fact that my gender does make me stand out among a room
full of males and I am always worried that when I perform, even a little
above the low expectations that I’m given a huge pat on the back when
I’m simply doing my job.
Here’s the ultimate problem with mandating that women be allowed to
serve in the combat arms: affirmative action plans such as gender
norming physical requirements would lead to disproportionate reward for
doing the same tasks with lower results. So a female would only have to
ruck 8 miles instead of 10.
Affirmative action plans that were meant to correct historical wrongs
have created a significant problem for people like me: the lowered
expectations means that I stand out against my female peers but I am
still not performing at a level of my male peers. My friends and mentors
tell me this is not the case, but that single comment has left a mark on
me but also the way I see things.
Another problem I have is the perception that certain ranks require
certain levels of award. The argument I heard in Iraq when I had kittens
about some people receiving Bronze Stars (and I still maintain that I
did nothing to warrant the award I received) is the scope of influence.
A warrant officer on the brigade staff is going to have significantly
more influence over the ability of the brigade to accomplish its mission
than a sergeant out pounding the streets. Granted, one is significantly
more dangerous but the other has significantly more impact.
But what about the perception that awards are supposed to be for doing
above and beyond your job? So if that sergeant who travels the roads in
Iraq is responsible for returning 15 COPs to fully operational
communications while that officer advances the next slide, is that truly
fair? The perception of rank equaling greater influence is only accurate
if the person at that rank truly exceeds the expectations for that rank.
Just because someone filled a slot does not mean they earned an
I find myself being highly disgruntled by the fact that my male
counterparts continually shy away from correcting female soldiers or
worse, expecting the bare minimum from then versus challenging them to
the same standards, we run the risk of creating a cadre of mid level
female NCOs, Warrant officers and officers who lack the skills to enable
our army to succeed at what we do: win wars.
My challenge to my peers: hold me to the same standard that you hold male lieutenants to. Hold these young
female lieutenants and warrant officer ones and specialists to the same
standard. Don’t shy away because you’re afraid of EO complaints.
damn it, stop rewarding us for showing up when you expect men to