Veterans preference helps give veterans a leg up in applying for federal government positions. But do those hiring initiatives favor men over women?

In recent years, the Rand Corporation has conducted research and analysis on the topic of gender equity in the workforce, including reports on sexual assault and harassment in the military, women in military Special Forces units and in combat roles, and a recent study on women’s representation in the U.S. Department of Defense Workforce.

The published study’s report concluded persistent discrepancies between female employees who worked for DoD and those in the civilian workforce and examines the low level of women’s representation and seeks to look at the differences and potential barriers that exist.

An important aspect of the report demonstrates that although longstanding policies favor hiring veterans for jobs in the federal government, most of the veteran hires are men. The Rand researchers reported the following in their key findings:

High proportions of veterans means less women’s representation

  • The proportion of employees who are veterans is the primary contributor to the explained portion of the gaps in women’s representation between the DoD civilian workforce, the non-DoD civilian federal workforce, and the civilian labor force.
  • The high proportion of DoD employees who are veterans contributes to the gap in women’s representation between the civilian labor force and both DoD and the non-DoD workforce; the latter gap is smaller than the former, though, because the proportion of non-DoD employees who are veterans is less than half that in the DoD workforce.

Substantially increasing long-run representation of women in the workforce would require significant changes in hiring

  • New hires who are veterans are much more likely than non-veteran new hires to be men.
  • Female employees had lower continuation rates than male employees had, which could also tend to reduce women’s representation under a given level of hiring in the long run.
  • Hiring non-veteran women is insufficient to replace retention losses.
  • Substantial changes in hiring veterans are necessary before projections show either prevention of a long-run decline or numbers in line with those for the relevant civilian labor force.
  • If the proportion of new hires who are veterans stays the same but women’s representation among non-veteran new hires increases, a majority of non-veteran new hires need to be women before projections maintain the initial level of women’s representation over time.

The report said changes in the DoD workforce required to achieve civilian workforce benchmarks have potential impacts that planners should investigate, including, if veterans have skills that are uncommon among non-veterans and if those skills are costly to develop internally.

Finally, the report recommends that an incremental approach should be taken in areas of recruiting, onboarding, and retention; and for policymakers to properly weigh the costs of changes against the potential benefits of increased gender diversity in DoD.

The report concludes that the best path forward should include ways to increase women’s representation in DoD, and for policymakers to weigh the costs of changes against the potential benefits of gender diversity and identify changes in each area to address representation gaps.

Related News

Diana M. Rodriguez is a native Washingtonian who works as a professional freelance writer, commentator, and blogger; as well as a public affairs, website content and social media manager for the Department of Defense.