Don't get wrong impression on women's salaries

May 25, 2014

I appreciate the nice article you carried on my speech to the Sussex County Republican Women’s Club. They are a great group and it was my pleasure to talk with them.

That said, I’m afraid my message must not have been received quite as I intended. In your article the point was made by their organizers that I said the military did not pay women equal salaries for equal work. I’m sorry if I left that impression because that is absolutely not the case.

I hope you will understand my obligation to correct that impression of our military services.

The point I was attempting to make was that a woman cannot afford to get too comfortable in her job if she wants to increase her opportunity (and salary). Instead, while doing her very best at her current job, she must at the same time be preparing herself for the next opportunity. What may look like lower salaries for women can be caused by their not preparing to get ahead.

I discussed a study done several years ago of civilian Civil Service women working for the Navy in response to our lower numbers of women being promoted to the Senior Executive Service (civilian equivalent of admiral and general rank). Rather than discrimination, the study showed that men in greater numbers than women were constantly on the look for the next rung up the ladder, and changing jobs to develop the breadth of experience that made them competitive for more important (and higher paying) jobs.

Conversely, women in greater numbers tended to get comfortable in their jobs and not move around (and up) as much. That desire for “comfort” in a job, made them less competitive for jobs further up the executive ladder.

Needless to say, subsequent to the study there has been more focus in the mentoring of both men and women to ensure everyone “gets it,” I also made the point that, if being comfortable in a job that may give you more time off to raise a family or go to school, or just because you really like the job, is absolutely fine whether you are a man or a woman. Just don’t wonder why you aren’t moving up.

So, not only does the military pay equal salaries for equal work, they are constantly expanding opportunities for both men and women, whether military members or civilian Civil Service members. Thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to correct the damage to the reputation of our services!

Mimi Drew
Rear Admiral, USN (Ret.)

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