Will gender neutral job titles introduce change in a culture?
Navy Secretary, Ray Mabus ordered the review of Navy job titles and a report to be completed no later than April 1, 2016. This comes after two West Point alumni graduated Ranger School back in August of last year, therefore breaking standards that once were thought impossible. This particular event, I believe, allowed the opening of all combat roles to women. Now, the Navy begins its long process of assessing and more than likely changing certain job titles to be more gender neutral.
I find that people are put off about this coming adjustment. Position titles have changed in the Navy before. This is not new, nor is it new for the Navy to switch up their uniforms. During my stint in the Navy I personally went through one of those changes – going from utilities to NWUs – and frankly the NWUs were much more comfortable than utilities. Yet, the Navy has already begun to upgrade their uniforms once again in order to make them more gender neutral.
In a Navy Times article, sources quote Mabus to say that it’s an “opportunity to update the position titles and descriptions themselves to demonstrate through this language that women are included in these positions.”
What bothers me about the Navy Secretary’s statement is that these changes are to demonstrate through this language that women are included within these positions. All the steps the Navy takes to make the service more gender neutral denotes a serious problem within the service.
I don’t think anyone needs to demonstrate that women have been in the service since Loretta Walsh joined the Navy in 1917 – the first to join as anything other than a nurse. I don’t think the problem lies within job titles, combat roles, or uniforms.
The problem lies with the simple bias that there are a lot of people that still think women can’t handle the job. Frankly, some women can’t. At the same time, some men can’t handle it either. What’s the suicide rate of veterans after service? How many are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI)? How many of our service members don’t come home whole because of a combat situation?
The mental aspect – to me – is the hardest part of being in service. The physical – if you’re able to meet the physical standards, it shouldn’t matter if you’re male or female.
Adjusting job titles to be gender neutral demonstrates the lack of equality within the service. The fear that standards will ease because women will be serving in combat roles is ridiculous. Here’s a simple answer to that: don’t. Don’t lower standards for anyone. Don’t we teach our children that everyday? We certainly don’t lower our standards with technology. We keep it at a certain level because the lives of our military personnel depend on it.
This isn’t about being politically correct; this isn’t even about tradition; this is about being able to see the big picture, about leaving residual ideas in the past and acting on the present. We give meaning to words. A job title is just a job title until someone gives it meaning. I don’t foresee this change having any effect on anyone today, but those that join five years from now will feel it. The Navy Secretary is asking for an entire culture to adjust and that will only come with time. Ultimately, people will see the change that it’s not just a male dominated world anymore, that this world is run by all those that are capable.