Women’s Equality: Know the past, appreciate the present, focus on the future


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Sunday is Women’s Equality Day. It’s a day to celebrate women’s equality in specific, connected ways. Each year, on this Congress-designated day, we commemorate the 1920 certification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution and the work of women’s suffrage advocates who helped achieve this milestone. The 19th Amendment guaranteed women the right to vote and was a monumental step towards women’s equality in today’s workforce.

“We are proud that women are represented at every level of our organization,” said Under Secretary for Benefits Paul R. Lawrence, Ph.D. “To me, men and women are equal. Inclusion is a big part of our strength.”

At the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), more than 11,500 out of approximately 23,500 employees are women. Women make up 49 percent of its workforce.

“I have served in VA for more than 20 years and wholeheartedly believe achieving and maintaining equality is everyone’s responsibility,” said Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Benefits Margarita Devlin, second in charge at VBA.

Fifty-seven percent of VBA employees are Veterans, and 31 percent  are women. It’s not a stretch to link the certification of the 19th Amendment with follow-on societal progress towards women’s equality that has enabled them to serve.

June 12, 1948, President Harry Truman signed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act into law. It granted women permanent status in the regular and reserve forces of the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps, as well as the newly-created Air Force. However, the act limited the proportion of women in the military to 2 percent of the enlisted force and 10 percent of officers. This limit was repealed in 1967.

“Women Veterans are a diverse and vital segment of the Veteran community,” said Anna Crenshaw, acting director for the Center for Women Veterans. “They are mothers, sisters, friends, partners, colleagues, and more. They represent all branches and periods of service, and we want to make sure their contributions as Veterans are as equally recognized as those of their male counterparts.”

As of Sept. 30, 2017, the population of women Veterans was 1,882,848 out of 19,999,799 Veterans. More than 1.8 million female service members served during wartime periods since the Spanish-American War. Approximately 700,000 women served post-9/11.

Women who serve continue to propel workforce equality too. For example, they are now serving onboard submarines and graduating from Army Ranger School—12 have earned the Ranger tab since women were first allowed to attend in 2015.

The past paved the way for the present, but the mission is not complete. Here’s to the future.

VBA’s mission is to deliver non-medical benefits programs for millions of Veterans, including disability compensation, pension and fiduciary, education, home loan guaranty, life insurance and vocational rehabilitation and employment benefits, and determining who is eligible to receive them. VBA comprises more than 23,500 employees and 56 regional offices nationwide. The benefits amount to over $100 billion distributed to Veterans and their families each year. To stay informed on VBA topics, visit www.va.gov and subscribe to e-mail updates. Visit VBA on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and VAntage Point. For more information on women Veterans, visit the Center for Women Veterans website.

Author

Selina Meiners

Selina Meiners is a public affairs specialist in VBA’s Office of Corporate Communications. She is a former active duty U.S. Army public affairs officer who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn with the 1st Infantry Division.

Comments

  1. Camis Schreier Childs    

    Within the Vet Community, women make up a make up a notably large statistic of suicide. VA is focusing on MST, which is part of the issue. But for some, the continued march to being considered an equal and capable part of the team has been a major issue too. In 1991 women were on the front line. We lead support units across the battle line to provide direct support to the firefight. Along side Tanks and Helicopters. We drove through mined areas, past enemy tanks (On fire) that had toxic gas cylinders, and across deserts with no roads. I woke up with a tank turret over the hood of my HMMWV at a 15 minute rest stop. I pulled security during a tank and air battle, while recovering a critical Fuel Tanker. And at one point, we needed to defend a convoy against a tank without the right equipment (weapons, manpower or commo). My Battalion CDR reassigned me to a staff job 2 weeks short of getting credit for Combat Command. My ORB and OER’s never mention any of this. Someone outside of my chain of command put me in for a Bronze Star. I was not invited to be part of the change of command for a unit I took to Iraq. In 2018… women continue to have to prove themselves. Maybe we start looking at that small issue and how that affects female veterans mental health.

  2. Carlos H. San Miguel, Jr.    

    Good afternoon, Selina

    I am wondering if you live and work in the Washington DC area, I am the Director of the Veterans Program for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, located at 9000 Machinists Place, Upper Marlboro, MD 20772. Our union is the only union currently under the AFL-CIO that has a school dedicated to its members. I would like to know if you are in the area if you would like to visit our facility and give a presentation to the 22 military veterans attending this class in October 2018, which include two female veterans.

    My goal is to establish a program that will be able to assist our Union members who are veterans and their families. It would be my pleasure to have you attend my class and address our students. If you can or if not and have someone I can reach out to I would appreciate your help. I thank you for your services.

    With best wishes, I remain

    Fraternally yours,

    Carlos H. San Miguel, Jr.
    Director, GST Services
    (redacted)

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