Women in the Military: Signs of Change

I remember when, in 1995, Shannon Faulkner was escorted by federal marshals onto the campus of the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, as the first woman to be admitted to this southern military college. Richard Fausset of the New York Times reminds us that Faulkner fought a two-and-a-half year legal battle to gain admission. Now, twenty-three years later, Sarah Zorn, a twenty-one-year-old college junior, has been selected by a panel of staff members and students to become “the Citadel’s first female regimental commander—the top cadet.” Fausset writes that change came slowly at the Citadel, and administrators now admit that for the first ten years or so after the courts forced the institution to admit women, resistance to change remained deeply ingrained and only slowly diminished. Institutional policies and practices were eventually revamped for the better:

  • Women are welcome and, in many cases, thriving on campus.
  • Ten percent of the graduating class this year were women.
  • Female cadets, on average, maintain a higher grade point average and are more likely to graduate than men; 75 percent of women graduate.
  • Sexist comments directed at women are unusual from male cadets and the women generally feel respected by their male colleagues.
  • The continued evolution of the Citadel culture found uniformed cadets marching for the first time in the Charleston Pride parade.
Let’s stop a moment and breathe in this good news. Change is possible, but it takes clarity and commitment on an institutional level to make it real and lasting.   Photo courtesy by James Willamor (CC BY-SA 2.0)]]>