Figure 2.3 illustrates the trend in the proportion of female recruits since the start of the All Volunteer Force. Appendix Table D-9 shows the number and proportion of NPS female accessions by Service in FY 1964 and FYs 1970 through 2002. The Air Force traditionally has the largest proportion of women recruits and the Marine Corps the smallest, in part a result of the number of positions open to women in these Services.
The proportion of NPS women accessing into the Services, 17 percent in FY 2002, is not comparable to female representation in the civilian population (50 percent). One reason for the difference is the lower inclination of women than men to apply for and enter the military.[footnote 27] The gender-integration policy, in effect for eight years, contributed to a continued gradual increase in the number and percentage of women enlisting in the Services.[footnote 28] However, the increase in enlistment of women has leveled off during the last three years, likely a result of the relatively low level of propensity as well as other factors influencing enlistment decisions, such as economic conditions.
Figure 2.3. Women as a percentage of Active Component NPS accessions, FYs 1973–2002.
Under a gender-neutral recruiting program since FY 1990, the Air Force leads the Services in the proportion of female accessions. The Air Force had increased its proportion of female recruits, from 20 percent in FY 1990 to 27 percent in FY 1999, followed by slight decreases in the last three years to 24 percent in FY 2002 (see Table D-9). When the Navy adopted a gender-neutral recruiting policy in FY 1994, the proportion of women accessions in the Navy increased 3 percentage points (from 17 percent in FY 1994 to 20 percent in FY 1995). However, the Navy dropped its gender-neutral recruiting policy because of constrained berthing facilities on Navy vessels. The Navy°s decision to rescind gender-neutral recruiting may have been a factor in the 6-percentage-point drop of female accessions from FY 1995 to FY 1997 (from 20 to 14 percent).[footnote 29] However, the Navy was able to recruit a significantly larger proportion of women—17 to 19 percent—each year since FY 1997. The Services experienced a slight drop in female accessions from FY 2001 (18 percent) to FY 2002 (17 percent).
[Footnote 27] The former annual DoD-sponsored Youth Attitude Tracking Study indicated that young women, depending upon age, were approximately one-half less inclined to join the military than young men. [back to paragraph]
[Footnote 28] Memorandum from William Perry, Secretary of Defense, Subject: Application of the Definition of Direct Ground Combat and Assignment Rule, July 28, 1994. [back to paragraph]
[Footnote 29] Born, D.H., Women in the Military-Trends 1990 to 1996 (Washington, DC: Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense [Force Management Policy/Accession Policy]). [back to paragraph]