The service's No. 2 officer says females should make up 25% of warship crewsWilliam Cole, Honolulu Star-Advertiser, May 15
15 May 2015
The No. 2 officer in the Navy envisions a day when 25 percent of warship crew members are women.
Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michelle Howard knows that percentage on ships and across the Navy is
a ways off, but efforts are underway to reach that goal, she said.
"Navy Recruiting Command says they have the qualified candidates, and we'll start trying to (bring in) 25 percent women," Howard said.
Right now the entire Navy is about 17 percent female, while women make up about 46 percent of the country's workforce, she noted.
In the meantime the Navy is looking at ships "and what percentage of women are on all the ships," Howard said. "And over time we'll modernize it to make sure we get to about 25 percent on each ship."
Gender integration is a priority for Howard, the 38th vice chief of naval operations, and something she knows a thing or two about.
When Howard became an admiral last year – the highest rank in the Navy – she became the first four-star female in the then 238-year history of the military branch, the service said.
The 1982 Naval Academy graduate took command of the USS Rushmore in 1999, becoming the first African-American woman to command a ship in the Navy.
On Thursday she held an "all-hands call" at Pearl Harbor's Bloch Arena to update sailors and take questions.
On the latter, Howard fielded queries on uniforms, technology, females on submarines and retirement, among other topics.
Howard is on her way to Singapore for the International Maritime Defense Exhibition and Conference where she will meet with counterparts from other nations.
Asked after the event about consideration of allowing women into the elite ranks of Navy SEAL commandos, Howard said U.S. Special Operations Command "has the lead" and is not due to provide recommendations until the end of the year.
"My sense is, it's probably going to come down to whether or not they feel they need to change the (occupational) standards," Howard said. "In the end it might be, ‘We can open (special operations) up, but the occupational standards stand.'"
So if women can meet those standards, "they should be able to come in," she said.
In the military there are physical fitness tests, and for certain jobs, additional occupational standards, Howard said.
"So everybody doesn't have to be able to do what a SEAL does; we have a separate test. But if you want to be a SEAL, you've got to be able to do more," she said.
The Washington Times reported that in the fall the head of U.S. Special Operations Command will make a recommendation to the defense secretary as to whether to allow women as SEALs and into other all-male units including Army Special Forces, Rangers and Delta Force.
When asked about some male resistance to opening special-operations roles to women, Howard cited her own groundbreaking success.
"I've served at sea for 30 years. I've been in command of a ship ... I believe I and my teams have been successful in every mission we have been given," she said.
Howard, who has held the Navy's No. 2 job since July, told hundreds of sailors at the all-hands call that the typical vice chief of naval operations' tenure is about two years, and she decided to focus on gender integration and cyberculture during that time.
Studies have focused on the right percentage in an organization for people to be successful, she said.
"Because it turns out when you don't have quite enough of a group of people, the challenges are difficult," Howard said. "There are always accusations of tokenism, there's stereotyping."
The Department of Labor says the threshold for workplace relationships to get normalized is 25 percent – and that's what the Navy is pursuing for women in its ranks, she said.
Howard also addressed sexual assault and the proliferation of electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets and game consoles. One sailor said he had 20 game consoles.
"Basically, I still have every gaming console that I've seen come out, and then I also have consoles that came out before my time," he said.
Howard said, "What it means is that for some of us, when we're off duty, we spend our liberty time in the cyberdomain. That's fine," she said.
"But I also think you ought to be aware of the vulnerabilities."
A past survey of sailors found that 75 percent had installed antivirus software, but 25 percent hadn't, she said.
There are people "who are using all available information in this domain to find us and try and target us," Howard said.