July 23, 2019

SWAN Responds to Report of Gender Gap in Congressional Nominations to Military Service Academies

Washington, D.C. – According to the recently published report, “Gatekeepers to Opportunity,” by the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center (CVLC), members of Congress overwhelmingly nominate more men than women to the 3 U.S. military service academies: the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA), the United States Naval Academy (USNA), and the United States Military Academy (USMA). The report analyzes congressional nominations from the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives from 1994 to 2019 and concludes that women have never surpassed 27% of the total Congressional nominations in any given year. This gender gap applies to both parties, with nominations of women by Democrats averaging only 22% and Republicans averaging just 20% of all Congressional nominations. 

“It is unconscionable that women continue to be disproportionally denied access to prestigious, federally funded educational opportunities by their elected representatives,” said SWAN CEO and retired Army Colonel Ellen Haring.  “Women have served and fought in every conflict since the American Revolution and today they serve in all combat occupations and units. There is no reasonable explanation for the continued disparity in the number of nominations that go to women,” Haring said.

The report examines the application and nomination processes of Congressional offices and found that there is no uniform application process, as each office is responsible for creating and executing their own nomination system. The report also cites a lack of transparency and standardization across Congressional offices, with no formal measures to reduce or eliminate systemic gender disparities.

Retired Navy Captain and SWAN’s Director of Government Relations, Lory Manning, said, “Many Congressional offices apparently have practices in place for service academy nominations that are a quarter-century out-of-date. In 1994, many occupations, units, and ships were closed to women but all are open today. Stale nomination practices that deliberately or unwittingly limit the number of women nominated are no longer appropriate or acceptable.”

The CVLC report provides several recommendations to reduce the gender gap in nominations. Specifically, it recommends explicitly highlighting diversity in promotion materials, actively recruiting qualified women, and training interview panels and selection staff to recognize nontraditional markers of academy potential. It further recommends that each Congressional office be required to report the race, ethnicity, and gender of their nominees and that the data be published on an annual basis. The report suggests that changes to the Congressional nomination process will help to reduce gender disparity at the academies and, in turn, expand the advancement of women in the military.

To read the full report, click here

About the Service Women’s Action Network

SWAN is a national, nonpartisan organization and member-driven community network advocating for the individual and collective needs of service women and women veterans. To date, SWAN has played a major role in opening all military jobs to service women, holding sex offenders accountable in the military justice system, eliminating barriers to disability claims for those who have experienced military sexual trauma, and expanding access to a broad range of reproductive healthcare services for military women. 


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