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Number of Female Generals, Admirals Has Doubled Since 2000, Report Finds

Richard Sisk |

As more women pursue careers in the military, their numbers in the senior enlisted and officer ranks have increased dramatically, according to a report released last week by the Service Women's Action Network (SWAN).

In 1988, less than 4% of those in the three senior enlisted paygrades (E7 to E9) were women. But as of February 2018, women constituted 11.8% of the E7 to E9 ranks in the Army; 20.3% in the Air Force; 11.6% in the Navy; 5.6% in the Marine Corps; and 8.7% in the Coast Guard, the report states.

There was a similar trend among senior officers, according to the report, titled "Women in the Military: Where They Stand."

Through the 1980s, women made up less than 2% percent of colonels and Navy captains, but the figures as of February 2018 were 10.6% for the Army; 11.6% for the Navy; 14.1% for the Air Force; 2.3% for the Marine Corps; and 11% for the Coast Guard, according to the report.

In February 2018, there were 63 female admirals and generals on active duty in the five services, compared to 30 in fiscal 2000, the report states.

Retired Navy Capt. Lory Manning, who compiled the SWAN report, said "a lot more women are staying in the military, and staying longer," resulting in their increased presence in the senior enlisted and officer ranks.

The wider variety of military occupational specialties that opened to women in recent years has also been a factor, said Manning, SWAN's director of government relations.

The report, using data from open government sources and also data obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request from the Defense Manpower Data Center, also found that increasing numbers of women in the enlisted and officer ranks are minorities.

In February 2018, about 61 percent of the enlisted women in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps were minorities, and 38% of the female officers, according to the report. African-Americans make up a much higher percentage of military women (25.6%) than military men (14.5%), the report said.

The percentage of Latina women in the military also has risen in recent years, from about 12% in 2011 to about 17.8% in 2018, the report states.

Overall, the percentage of women in the active-duty military has risen significantly since the end of the draft, from 1.6% in 1973 to 16.3% in February 2018, according to the report.

The total number of women on active duty in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines last year was 210,000, with another 5,955 on active duty in the Coast Guard, the report states.

The report also includes a breakdown by operation of the number of women in the military who have become casualties since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The total is 170 killed and 1,102 wounded.

Fifty military women died and 383 were wounded in action during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, which officially ended in December 2014, and 110 women were killed and 627 were wounded in Operation Iraqi Freedom, which ended in August 2010.

One woman died and 12 were wounded in action in Operation New Dawn in Iraq, from September 2010 to December 2011.

To date, five women have died and 68 have been wounded in Operation Inherent Resolve, in Iraq and Syria, which began in 2014. And four women have died and 12 have been wounded in action in Operation Freedom's Sentinel in Afghanistan, which began in 2015, the report said.

Active Duty
Desert Storm
Women Veterans