Third of women in Air Force and Space Force say they have faced sexual harassment: study

The study also confirms wide racial and ethnic disparities in the forces

US Air Force Superintendent: "If you can't treat someone with dignity and respect, then get out"

One in every three women serving in the US Air Force and Space Force said they have faced sexual harassment, a study conducted by a top Air Force official stated.

Several women said they can describe accounts of sexism and stigma in the forces attached to pregnancy and maternity leave, according to the findings of the study conducted by the Air Force inspector general and released on Thursday.

An under-representation of women and minorities in leadership and officer positions, especially at senior levels, was prevalent, the study revealed. Women and minority service members also get promoted less frequently.

One in every four women civilians working for the forces said they have experienced sexual harassment during the length of their careers, the study revealed.

Some women across the force also said they lacked trust in their chain of command with respect to addressing bad behaviour as they feared a backlash.

About half of all the women respondents surveyed said maintaining work and life balance, while taking care of family affairs, impacted them adversely. This was in stark contrast to just 18 per cent of men sharing a similar view.

Women and minorities also claim they have to work harder to prove their competency, opposed to the majority of men.

The study is in line with an earlier initial review from December which showed Black service members in the Air Force were far more likely to be probed, arrested, faced with disciplinary actions and be discharged for misconduct, confirming wide racial and ethnic disparities.

The earlier review also found that Black service members were less likely to be promoted and that a third believed they don’t get the same opportunities as their white peers.

The latest survey involved women, Asian, American Indian/Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian/ Other Pacific Islanders and Hispanic/ Latino Personnel serving in active duty, the National Guard, Reserves and civilian workforce, while the respondents in the earlier survey from December focused on Black service members.

As a result, thousands of female and minority Air Force and Space Force members reported bias, discrimination and sexual harassment for the current survey, the Associated Press (AP) pointed out.

Acknowledging the survey, Inspector general Lt General Sami Said pointed to some of the largest gaps in operational jobs in pilot and combat-related posts.

The problem, he said, occurred during recruitment. A common theme in surveys and group discussions was that women and minorities believed there to be a “lack of people that look like us that can mentor us and advise us,” he said.

As they are not brought in to key operational jobs at decent rates, they find themselves at a disadvantage while competing during promotions and better jobs, he told reporters.

In 2020, data showed nearly 84 per cent of the pilots on active Air Force duty were white and more than 92 per cent were male. In contrast, just 7.7 per cent were female, 3 per cent were Hispanic/Latino, 2.7 per cent were Asian American, 2 per cent were Black, 0.5 per cent were Native American and 0.3 per cent were Pacific Islanders.

The report also mentioned ongoing efforts made by the forces to address shortfalls found in the December review on biases faced by the Black community.

The measures include directing more minorities in key career fields that have greater opportunities for advancement.

More than 100,500 individuals took part in the anonymous survey for the latest study.

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