USAF looking for ways to retain women, more than 60% leave before ten years

U.S. Air Force Airmen stand at attention during a retreat ceremony Mar. 30, 2018, on Kadena Air Base, Japan. An all-female formation was coordinated in honor of Women’s History Month, which brings attention to the accomplishments and achievements of women throughout history. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony)

The US Air Force is looking into new ways to retain women and address their pilot shortage, citing a recent study that gives grim insight into the state of the Air Force.

As it stands, women only make up about 20.6 percent of the USAF officer corps and trends sharply downwards as rank increases, according to a study from the RAND Corporation.

Of female officers who are not pilots, only about 37 percent stay in the service longer than ten years, compared to around 55 percent for their male counterparts.

For pilots, only about 39 percent of women stay in the Air Force for a decade or more, a sharp contrast to the 63 percent of men who do the same.

The study’s findings also pointed out a weak spot in the child care aspect of military life, including paternity leave, private nursing rooms and even leave for adoption. One serious suggestion was the expansion and promotion of the Career Intermission Program (CIP), which allows for inactivation and transfer to the Individual Ready Reserve with partial pay for up to three years before returning to active duty.

According to the study, “Participants said the new maternity leave policy is a step in the right direction to support women in the Air Force but were mixed on whether this new policy might influence female officers’ decisions regarding retention.”

In addition to the woes of female servicemembers, the study also suggested that male dependents, such as ensuring spouse support programs and initiatives are inclusive of male spouses.

The report was so significant, it was brought up by Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso -the Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services- as she testified before the House Armed Services Committee on April 13.

Grosso says the study shows that is it “very clear from women, and this was literally in the study, they want to get off the escalator.”

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