Air Force women, minorities face harassment and bias, IG finds

WASHINGTON – About one-third of female service members in the Air Force and Space Forces say they have experienced sexual harassment, and many may describe sexist and discriminatory reasons related to being pregnant. pregnancy and maternity leave, a study published Thursday has found.

The review conducted by the Air Force Inspector General also concluded that minorities and women were less likely to participate in leadership and officer positions, especially at senior levels, and received fewer promotions. It echoes many of the findings of an initial review, published last December, which found that Black service members in the Air Force were more likely to be investigated, arrested, or arrested. , faced disciplinary action and was discharged for misconduct.

Two assessments of racial, ethnic, and gender disparities in the Air Force and Space Force confirm that bias exists, but the data do not fully explain why. The studies also reflect broader campaigns within the Department of Defense and the Biden administration to root out extremism and racism.

President Joe Biden has declared domestic extremism an urgent national security threat, and the Department of Defense is working to identify extremist behavior and remove it from the force. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, earlier this year, ordered military leaders to take a day to talk to their troops about extremism in the ranks, after several military members old and present participated in the attack on the US Capitol in January.

Additionally, the Department of Defense late last year endorsed a series of initiatives aimed at recruiting, retaining, and promoting a more racially and ethnically diverse workforce.

“There’s a lot of variation within the Air Force,” Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said on a call with reporters. “This includes things like promotions, how people are treated in their careers, how they are treated in their duties, other areas of the justice system, if you will, and also about awareness that people have.”

In the latest study, about half of the women polled said maintaining work-life balance and fulfilling family commitments had an adverse effect on them, while only 18% of men Survey respondents share that view.

It also found that about 25 percent of female Air Force and Space Force civilians reported experiencing sexual harassment during their careers. And it says some women in the force don’t trust their chain of command to address bad behavior, and fear retribution.

Women and ethnic minorities also said they believe they have to work harder to prove their competence.

While the first study looked at disparities for black service members, the latest involved women, Asians, American Indians or Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, or people. other Pacific Islanders, and active-duty Latino personnel, the National Guard, the Reserve, and the civilian workforce.

As a result, the report said, thousands of female and minority Air Force and Space Force members reported instances of sexual favoritism, discrimination and harassment that contributed to racial disparities. race, ethnicity, and gender stated in the document.

Lieutenant General Sami Said, the inspector general, told reporters that some of the biggest gaps were in operations jobs, including pilot and other combat-related positions. For example, in 2020, nearly 84% of active Air Force pilots are white and more than 92% are male. In contrast, 7.7 percent were female, 3 percent were Latino, 2.7 percent were Asian-American, 2 percent were black, 0.5 percent were Native American, and 0. 3 percent are Pacific Islanders.

According to Said, the problem starts with recruitment. A common theme in surveys and panel discussions, he said, is that women and minorities believe there is “a lack of people who look like us who can guide and advise us”.

Because they are not put in the important performance jobs at a decent rate, they will be at a disadvantage competing with others for promotions and better jobs.

Additionally, the report found that Native Americans were 113% more likely to face military court than their white counterparts, and that they and Latino Air Force members were at risk. faced 33% higher crime investigations.

The second report released on Thursday pointed to a number of ongoing efforts to address shortcomings found in the December review of bias against blacks. It also found that they are less likely to be promoted and a third believe they do not have the same opportunities as their white peers.

It said the Air Force is working to increase awareness of diversity among employers and expand partnerships with organizations with large minority populations to boost recruitment. That effort will include directing more minorities into key career areas that offer greater advancement opportunities.

The Air Force has also established new policies to track administrative actions based on age, rank, gender, and race, and recommended additional training for commanders and key leaders. different from unconscious bias.

Said told reporters he was “100 percent convinced” that senior leaders were focusing on diversity.

“It is not a shiny object of the dying moment,” he said.

More than 100,500 individuals participated in the anonymous survey for the latest research on gender and minorities. Participants also viewed more than 16,900 single-spaced pages of other comments and participated in 122 small group discussions.

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