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Prioritizing Women in the Services

Just in time for Women’s History Month, the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) released its annual recommendations for the Services on how to make the military a more welcoming and better place for all servicemembers. This year, DACOWITS provided recommendations to the Services that continue to improve and expand on several recommendations other organizations, including IAVA, have made over the past few years.

DACOWITS is an advisory body to the Department of Defense (DoD), but it carries a lot of weight. DACOWITS recommendations are presented to senior leadership across the services and help inform policies and changes that are implemented throughout the year. So while DACOWITS recommendations are not binding, the Services generally tend to address these concerns.

Many of the recommendations highlighted below from DACOWITS report should sound familiar. That’s because IAVA continues to fight for many of the same recommendations and has for years with added attention to this issue since our She Who Borne The Battle campaign launched in 2017. And while there has been so much progress made for women veterans and servicewomen since that time, there are systemic issues and challenges that must be addressed.

First off, ensuring that sexual harassment and command climate is addressed is one of DACOWITS top priorities. Over the past year, DoD released several reports highlighting the rate and amount of sexual harassment currently happening in the Services and in the Service Academies. Furthermore, the DACOWITS report showed that gender discrimination continues in the ranks. This is unacceptable. For a healthy, fighting force, both women and men should not and cannot fear sexual harassment and discrimination. Addressing this issue will continue to be critical to ensuring the military has a sustainable fighting force.

In addition, DACOWITS recommends focus on the wellbeing of servicewomen, including providing servicewomen with protective equipment and gear that is properly fitted for servicewomen and allowing for increased flexibility and availability for parental leave. Ensuring military families are supported and are able to care for their children must continue to be a priority for the Services as more women fill the ranks and secondary caregivers become essential for ensuring family stability.

Similarly, for far to long, the services have been using smaller-size male gear for women and calling it good enough. But as more and more women join and serve, it is imperative that women have properly gender-specific gear throughout their time in uniform. This investment is essential as poorly fitting equipment is a leading cause of injury for servicemembers, whether in theater or in training.

And last but certainly not least, DACOWITS recommendations include addressing the Department of Veterans’ Affairs motto to be more inclusive of all who serve. This is a key component of IAVA’s She Who Borne the Battle campaign and speaks to more than just a motto. As DACOWITS reconfirms, changing the VA motto is a sign of culture change and shows that women veterans and servicewomen are welcome at VA facilities.

The highlighted recommendations above are just a few of where IAVA and DACOWITS recommendations overlap. For more on where IAVA stands on these issues and more, see our newest Policy Agenda here. And these and many more recommendations can be found in DACOWITS full report.

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