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Fighting For A Combat Role: Women File Suit Against Pentagon

A lawsuit that would require the military to stop gender discrimination in employment was recently filed against the Pentagon. Army Col. Ellen Haring is leading the fight, seeking to declare the Pentagon’s practice of excluding women from 150,000 available jobs in the military, unconstitutional.

Haring was selected and received three months of training to serve as the supervisor of female soldiers who were tasked with interviewing Afghan women. While preparing to deploy for what Haring considered her “dream job,” she was informed that she was not, in fact, qualified for the position. A lower-ranking male officer was assigned to the role instead.

The reason Haring believes she was ultimately excluded from the role: her lack of combat experience, something she will never be able to gain because the military disallows women to serve in combat roles.

Haring and a female soldier in the Army Reserve are trying to change the Pentagon’s policy on women in combat. The result of the gender discrimination has been less opportunities for females, including lower pay and lower chance for promotion.

While the military is obviously giving men preference over women despite prohibitions against discrimination based on gender, many believe Haring is in for a battle. Federal courts have long deferred to the military’s internal decisions on staffing.

Haring is working with the University of Virginia’s Molly Pitcher Project to bring the military policy of excluding women from combat roles to an end. The lack of actual front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan have meant that women have been serving in combat roles for years and it’s time the Pentagon recognized the contribution women are playing to these defense efforts.

Source: The Los Angeles Times, “Female soldiers fight Pentagon in court for combat positions,” October 11, 2012

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