Women in the Military: Statistics, and the First Female JFACC

Previous articles have noted the recommendation by a government panel that women be allowed in all military roles, including combat, because their careers suffer when they are compared to males with broader or combat experience.

A recent article highlighting female Army aviators noted the statistic:

According to a study released earlier this month by the Military Leadership Diversity Commission, women account for only 16 percent of leadership positions in the military – a seemingly staggering statistic to release during National Women’s History Month.

The very next sentence, however, puts the statistic in perspective: 

The numbers aren’t so shocking when compared to the overall statistic of women serving in the military, which is 16.4 percent, according to a Sept. 30 report released by the Department of Defense.

So women make up both 16 percent of the population, and 16 percent of “leadership positions,” despite the fact they aren’t currently permitted in some career fields or combat situations.

Some people lament headlines like “first women” or “first African American” or other “firsts,” preferring that society should be gender neutral or color blind (or that first left-handed bald Irishman should get the same deference).  There’s some validity to that point, but there is also often good reason for the highlight.  Just as this site often highlights military members of faith in unique professional roles, so, too, does the military often highlight ethnicity or gender.  The well-intentioned goal is to serve as an inspiration or encouragement to those of like-mind and characteristic, telling them that they, too, can aspire to and become fighter pilots, astronauts, General officers, or President.

Conversely, the military doesn’t always make a big deal about gender or race.  Take this recent excerpt from an official news release on the war in Libya:

“We are very happy to have the Qatar Emiri Air Force become part of our coalition team,” said Maj. Gen. Margaret Woodward, the Joint Force Air Component commander for Operation Odyssey Dawn…

Without any ado, MajGen Margaret Woodward appears to be the first female combat JFACC.  The fact she’s a tanker/cargo pilot is likely more interesting than is her gender.


  • Carmine Wiggins

    This article is kinda funny…her “Command Center” is co-located with Ramstein (USAFE), it is not very likely she is a/the true combat JFACC. AFRICOM has no assets and has been in an airlift humanitarian mission since it started, and 17th AF is barely an A-Staff. Appearances/gender aside, given her background, tanker/cargo pilot, I’m not so sure this is not a PR campaign. Would love to know if there was ever a tanker/cargo pilot JFACC before her [appearance].

    I’ll go out on a limb and bet the combat seasoned fighter/bomber pilots [Generals] would be a little upset with this extremely under-qualified “Combat JFACC”…I would be.

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