Congressman Seeks Gender Diversity Reports from Coast Guard

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Incoming first-year students, or swabs, arrive for “Reporting-In Day,” or R-Day, at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, New London, Conn., June 27, 2016. (U.S. Coast Guard photo/Lisa A. Ferdinando)
Incoming first-year students, or swabs, arrive for “Reporting-In Day,” or R-Day, at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, New London, Conn., June 27, 2016. (U.S. Coast Guard photo/Lisa A. Ferdinando)

Following the release of a study looking at the retention of women in the Coast Guard, Democratic U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas of New Hampshire has introduced legislation that would require the Coast Guard to provide regular reports to Congress on its efforts to increase gender diversity.

The Coast Guard hired the RAND Corp. last year to look at barriers to women staying in the service and come up with recommendations to better retain them. The 200-page study from RAND was published at the end of March.

While the Coast Guard's retention rates are relatively high in comparison to the other military services, women are leaving at higher rates than men, particularly between the five- and 10-year marks. The RAND study identified three main areas contributing to women's decision to leave: work environment, career issues and personal life--related matters.

"The RAND report indicates that we can be doing more to ensure that women have the same protections and opportunities for advancement as their male counterparts," Pappas said by email.

His bill, the Fair and Equal Treatment of Women in the Coast Guard Act, also would direct the Coast Guard, within 180 days of the legislation's passage, to identify which recommendations from the report can be "practicably" implemented and come up with a plan for implementing them.

The RAND study said there's no "silver bullet solution" but recommended that the Coast Guard continue to monitor gender gaps in retention, and the effectiveness of policies and initiatives aimed at closing those gaps.

Other recommendations include expanding opportunities for leadership development with emphasis on creating an "inclusive environment" and on mentorship, including mentoring junior female members. It also recommends that all leaders be educated on female-specific policies, such as having adequate breastfeeding facilities.

Pappas said he's received support from both Republicans and Democrats to his proposal. He is working with the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, of which he is a member, to incorporate the proposal in the annual Coast Guard authorization bill, if not as a stand-alone bill.

The Coast Guard has a policy of not commenting on pending legislation, but Lt. Cmdr. Scott McBride, a Coast Guard spokesman, said in an email that the service "is committed to being resilient and effective -- which is only possible once all members are fully supported, both personally and professionally."

"Moving forward, the Coast Guard will continue to promote dignity and respect throughout the service," McBride said.

This article is written by Julia Bergman from The Day, New London, Conn. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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