Air Force Secretary: Let's change how we talk about women in the military

Matt Saintsing
March 20, 2018 - 1:38 pm

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank


The U.S. Air Force has to find a better way to appeal to women, Secretary Heather Wilson said Tuesday, particularly since women have a “very natural” role in the military.

Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, she said that the military views its natural security role in terms that appeal more to younger men than women. She added that the Air Force is working diligently to reach women more directly.

“We’re trying to change a little bit the way we talk and think about who the protectors are, because I think sometimes the way in which we talk about the services may appeal more to boys than to girls, and that’s important the way we talk about these things,” said Wilson.

Wilson, along with the secretaries of the Army and Navy were questioned about the military’s gender gap. All four services have recently opened combat positions to women and are shifting their policies.

“If I asked everyone in this room to think, just close your eyes for a second, and think about the most protective person in your life, someone who would do anything to keep you safe,” she said. “Half the people in this room are thinking about their moms."

“We are the protectors; that’s what the military does,” continued Wilson. “We serve to protect the rest of you, and that’s a very natural place for a woman to be.”

All of the services face challenges in recruiting women, said Congresswoman Susan David (D-Calif.) She added that the loss of such service members could cause a detriment to the military’s readiness.

Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), a U.S. Army veteran, lauded Wilson’s comments.

“I’ve never heard the case for who should be serving in our uniforms better put than the way you said that,” said Conaway. “I don’t know if you noticed, but it got real quiet in here when you were finishing up your statement, and I think it was because your words were reverberating through everyone in here.”