From the Globe and Mail of Toronto, a look at the Canadian experience of having opened infantry and other close-combat specialties:
What happens when women are fully integrated into combat? Fortunately, we have a great example: Canada. Overall, women account for 14 per cent of all jobs in the Canadian Forces, a slightly lower percentage than in the U.S. As a result of a human-rights decision, front-line combat jobs were opened to women in 1989. Yet today, despite strenuous recruiting efforts, women hold just 2.4 per cent of these jobs. Their commanding officers praise their competence but treat them differently, by shielding them from combat. According to a Wall Street Journal report this week, the widespread impression among Canadian female soldiers – much to their frustration – is they are used “only sparingly.” Men serving next to women also exhibit a counterproductive battlefield trait: protectiveness. They want to carry women’s gear and keep them out of harm’s way. As one male soldier told the Journal, “That brother-sister protective thought was always in the back of your mind.”
In the real world, few enlisted women want to be on the front lines. Like a lot of men (but more so), they join up for the free education and career training, and would really rather not get anywhere near combat. The drive for full combat integration comes from female officers who need front-line experience to build their careers, as well as from a persistent band of activists who have succeeded in making the U.S. military hypersensitive to charges of discrimination.
Nowhere is the military ethos more challenged than over issues of sex, pregnancy and motherhood. The high rate of pregnancy among females in the U.S. military is a big taboo and an operational nightmare. According to a study reported this week by Reuters, more than 10 per cent of active-duty U.S. military women had an unintended pregnancy in 2008 alone – a rate that one of the study’s authors called “really shocking.” But it shouldn’t be. One study of a brigade operating in Iraq, cited by commentator Linda Chavez, found that female soldiers were evacuated at three times the rate of male soldiers – and that 74 per cent of them were evacuated for pregnancy-related issues.Which is what I said last week:
There are many jobs that women will naturally gravitate to and infantry and other direct-combat, extremely physically-demanding jobs simply are not among them ... women will continue to stay away in droves. Why? Because they are not idiots.