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U.S. Navy Sets Up Service-Wide Workgroup to Reduce Barriers for Women

female helicopter team
Servicemembers aboard USS Mount Whitney, 2019 (USN)

Published Mar 15, 2024 8:19 AM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Navy is standing up a new policy guidance group focused on improving the experience of female servicemembers, part of an overall effort to improve retention and recruitment. 

The new Navy Women's Innovation Team (WIT) will draw together advisors from 27 different communities and commands throughout the service, giving a new formal structure to previous ad-hoc groups. It will be guided by the Office of Women's Policy within the Navy's personnel, manpower and training division. 

Each identified command will nominate an officer and an enlisted servicemember to join the advisory board, and may also choose to designate a civilian Navy employee representative. Together, they will be tasked with helping the Navy identify and remove barriers facing female servicemembers. 

The other service branches have similar arrangements, like the Air Force Womens' Initiative Team, which has led efforts to get better-fitting body armor, adjust Cold War-era height/weight rules to meet modern service requirements, and adapting service rules to better accommodate pregnancy and breastfeeding. These are incremental changes that matter for the 15-20 percent of servicemembers who are female - especially when most of the service branches are coming up short on their recruitment targets. 

The Navy fell 6,000 people short of its recruiting goal in 2023 and is fighting to make up the gap. Its target this year is to bring in 40,600 people aged 17-41 who can meet the Navy's physical, mental and moral standards. To bring in more recruits, the service has reduced its testing requirement to the lowest score allowable by law, suspended its secondary education requirement, and raised the oldest recruitment age to the maximum allowable by law.