The United States Air Force has announced new initiatives to recruit and retain more women and minorities, as Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James (pictured) warned that those who choose to not understand “diversity and inclusion” will not thrive in the service.
Troubled by a lack of women and minorities at the Air Force’s higher levels, its leaders are rolling out nine initiatives focusing on recruitment, promotions and retention. Some are new ideas, while others are existing programs that will be enhanced, James said. The Air Force will begin setting, ‘gender-neutral standards for all jobs, including those in the seven career fields now closed to women.’
The changes include giving women shorter than 5 feet 3 inches waivers so they can meet the height requirements to become pilots and ‘gender-neutral standards for all jobs.’ The Air Force currently requires pilots to be at least 5 foot 3 inches tall, and no taller than 6 foot 4 inches. They must also weigh between 160 to 231lb, depending on height. “Height limits are set according to the size of the most restrictive cockpits,” James said,”but there are many other planes that shorter people could fly.” The report asserts that by making the waiver process more widely accessible to ROTC cadets, an estimated 900 more women could become pilots over the next five years.
Currently women make up 19% of the US Air Force. Furthermore, James pointed out that both women and people of colour are underrepresented in the pilot ranks. She attributed the imbalance to a male-oriented military culture, rigid regulations and laws.
James concludes by saying, “This approach is necessary because our increasingly diverse citizenry places a special trust in us and we must keep that trust by ensuring our Air Force is representative of the best of the populace from which we draw our considerable strength,” adding, “Those who cannot or choose not to understand that point aren’t going to thrive in our Air Force as much as those who do.”
Her Memorandum to all Airmen can be found here.