Navy submarines: What’s really in the way of women serving?
If mixing crew genders can work for NASA, Canada, and Norway, it can work on a Navy submarine.
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And while some male crew members are supportive of the shift, there is also a Facebook group of Navy service members who voice a wide range of thin arguments.Skip to next paragraph
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Yet all of this outdated gender bias does not challenge women’s qualifications to perform job duties. It merely opposes mixing the genders because men are unused to it.
Women have already mastered nuclear technology in the surface environment and this provides a pool of women to jump-start the transition to the submarine force. The only way to get used to a mixed crew is to implement the policy change.
Further, there is no evidence that integrating crews will undermine national security or cause social disruption. In fact, the practice of submarine crew integration has been successful for Canada, Australia, Norway, and Sweden.
A study commissioned for NATO found that on Canadian Victoria-class submarines, “Women have been seamlessly integrated into the environment with few problems. No attempts have been made to segregate the genders, and no special provision has been made for bunking or shower facilities.” (All bunks have privacy curtains, and women use the officers’ single-person head facilities.)
My grandfather, a Navy captain, graduated from the Naval Academy in 1942 and commanded a destroyer and up to two squadrons. What many are saying now echoes his view in the 1960s: The complications of having women and men in close quarters made a mixed-gender sub unfeasible.
But it’s 50 years later. My grandfather did not imagine women serving on destroyers, which has been effectively and smoothly implemented. Nor did he probably imagine that women would be NASA astronauts living in a mixed-gender crew in tighter quarters than even a sub.
Adm. Gary Roughead, who as current chief of naval operations is responsible for implementing any new policy, says he is confident his sailors are now responsible and mature enough for mixed-gender subs. He’s right. After all, the Navy was the first branch of the armed services to enlist females.
The legacy of the US is defined by overcoming unnecessary barriers to the equality of citizens. Fifty years ago how many people thought electing a black president was possible? According to the Cambridge Dictionary, progress is defined as “the development of a society in a direction considered more beneficial than and superior to the previous level.”
If you ask someone who has experienced gender or racial discrimination, they’d tell you progress could be faster. This time around, Congress should facilitate the Navy policy change that will eliminate one of the last bastions of gender segregation.
Taraneh Ghajar Jerven is a freelance writer. She comes from a Navy family.