By Gary SheftickMarch 25, 2009
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 25, 2009) -- Women who serve in the Army are better educated and often end up having better jobs than their civilian counterparts.
Those were among the findings of a study conducted by George Mason University and discussed Tuesday on Capitol Hill during the inaugural symposium of the U.S. Army Women's Foundation.
The Army Women's Foundation is not exactly a brand new organization, but the symposium was the non-profit group's first national networking event, according to its president, retired Maj. Gen. Dee Ann McWilliams. She said the organization, which traces its roots to 1969 when it founded the Women's Army Corps Museum, recently began new efforts to advocate for woman who serve in today's Army.
The foundation launched a scholarship program last year for women in the Army and their children. Its first research project was the pilot study by the GMU School of Public Policy which found that one-third of 700 female veterans who responded to the survey had a personal income over $60,000 annually. Only 10 percent of women in the general population earned that much, according to the last U.S. Census.
Nearly 60 percent of female veterans had a bachelor's degree or higher compared with only 26 percent of women nationally. Women veterans also had more leadership experience, as mentioned during all panel presentations at the foundation's "Army Women in Transition" Symposium.
And it was no coincidence that the foundation selected March as the time to launch its first symposium.
"As you all know, this is Women's History Month," Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. said at the foundation's luncheon. He talked about female pioneers in the Army from Civil War surgeon and Medal of Honor recipient Mary Walker to the Nov. 14, 2008 promotion of the military's first woman four-star, Gen. Ann Dunwoody, who was also attending.
"I think it is an indicator of how far we have come as an Army," Casey said. He related that three years after he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1970 at Georgetown University, women were first admitted into the Reserve Officer's Training Corps. Then in 1976, they were first admitted into West Point.
"So what's striking here is ... how far we've come, frankly in my lifetime. And we're not resting on our laurels."
Casey congratulated retired Brig. Gen. Evelyn "Pat" Foote and Command Sgt. Maj. Cynthia Pritchett, who were inducted into the foundation's Hall of Fame Tuesday.
Foote was the first woman to command a brigade in Europe, the first to serve as Army deputy inspector general, and the first female Army officer to serve on the faculty of the U.S. Army War College.
But she said that she was reluctant to accept the award because "So many women who came before me did so much to open so many doors in which we were permitted to walk." She accepted the Hall of Fame award on in the name of other female pioneers who blazed the way in the Army.
Because of those who served before her, Pritchett said she can "be a theater combatant sergeant major and not have people blink an eye."
Pritchett now serves as command sergeant major for the Army element of U.S. Central Command. She was the first command sergeant major of the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. And from 2004-2006, she was the command sergeant major for Combined Forces-Afghanistan.
"Today it's not an anomaly to see female leaders out there (in theater). And the male Soldiers do respect the women that we have today because of what we bring to the fight."
She accepted the award on behalf of the Year of the NCO, she said, and for all non-commissioned officers in the Army.
These first two members of the Army Women's Foundation Hall of Fame served together in the early 1990s when Foote was commanding general of Fort Belvoir, Va., and Pritchett was the installation's command sergeant major.
The foundation originally was created to found the Women's Army Corps Museum at Fort McClellan, Ala., almost 30 years ago. When that post closed, the foundation helped move the museum to Fort Lee, Va. Then about three years ago, the Women's Army Museum Foundation changed its name and dropped the word museum.
"We wanted to do more than just support a museum," said Peggy Trossen, executive director of the foundation, although she said that's still a big part of what they do.
"We wanted to have events like this," Trossen said. We wanted to do scholarships. We wanted to do research. We wanted to be more relevant to today's Soldiers," she said.
The foundation's inaugural "Army Women in Transition" Symposium included three panel discussion groups Tuesday.
The first panel, the "Role of Women in the Army and its Evolution" was headed by Foote, retired Brig. Gen. Barbara Doornink and Dr. Stephen S. Fuller of GMU. He discussed results of the study "Telling the Story of U.S. Army Women: Opportunities, Challenges and Benefits of Service."
The second panel, "Workforce Development and the Transitioning Army Woman Soldier" was headed up by Maj. Gen. Gina Farrisee, director of Military Personnel Management for G-1.
The third panel was titled a "Legislative Perspective: Available Resources, Continued Challenges," and was headed by Dr. Betty Mosely Brown, associate director for the Center of Women Veterans, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Brig. Gen. Belinda Pinckney, director of the Army Diversity Office and Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire.