Marine Corps Wants to Rid Service Publications of Gender Bias Within 2 Years

U.S. Marine Corps recruits with Platoon 4038, Papa Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, execute crunches during their Initial Strength Test on Parris Island July 20, 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/Dana Beesley)
U.S. Marine Corps recruits with Platoon 4038, Papa Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, execute crunches during their Initial Strength Test on Parris Island July 20, 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/Dana Beesley)

The most male-dominated military service in the Department of Defense has embarked on an ambitious initiative to strip unnecessary masculine pronouns and other indicators of gender bias out of its foundational publications within the next 24 months.

The assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Glenn Walters, told members of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services that the Corps has accelerated a timeline to overhaul some 107 documents, including doctrinal publications, to make language gender-inclusive, reflecting a cultural shift taking place in the service.

"By next year, we ought to be more than halfway through ... all of our publications," he told the group at a quarterly meeting in September. "Things like referring to the commander in the masculine -- moving on, it will just refer to the commander. So those are the nuances that get unconscious bias out of it."

Walters said a review of doctrinal publications for language indicative of gender bias had been merged with an initiative to digitize the documents, a move that allowed the service to throw more staffing and resources behind the effort.

"We went from a 10-year completion of the project down to, I think it's 18 or 24 months right now," he said.

Meanwhile, the service has institutionalized training on the phenomenon of unconscious bias, with courses now offered at Marine Corps boot camp and all schoolhouses, including commanders' courses, Walters said.

That initiative began in 2016 as the service opened previously closed ground combat roles to women. Marine officials announced in March of that year a plan to send mobile training teams out to bases to educate officers on built-in assumptions and prejudices that might affect the way they treat women and other minority groups.

While the Marine Corps still has the lowest percentage of female troops by far of any military service, the figure has been creeping upward. As of June 2017, according to official service data, just 8.3 percent of Marines were female; according to the most recently published data for 2018, women now make up almost 9.2 percent of the force.

Walters said when he entered the Marine Corps in 1979, just 3.2 percent of Marines were women.

"We're predicting we'll be above 10 percent within a year or two," he said.

While women in previously closed combat units remain a small minority, Walters said there now are between 200 and 300 female troops serving within these units, with female officers graduating from artillery school, tank school and assault amphibious school with honors.

"I think it's common knowledge and well known throughout the Marine Corps right now," he said, "that there's nothing a female can't do if she meets the standards and wants to try."

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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