Why Do Women Leave the Coast Guard, and What Can Be Done to Encourage Them to Stay?

Authored by: Kimberly Curry Hall, Kirsten M. Keller, David Schulker, et al.

Categories: Statebuilding
Sub-Categories: National Security Forces and Armed Groups, Security Sector Reform (SSR)
Country: United States
Region: North America
Year: 2019
Citation: Hall, Kimberly Curry, Kirsten M. Keller, David Schulker, Sarah Weilant, Katherine L. Kidder, and Nelson Lim. Why Do Women Leave the Coast Guard, and What Can Be Done to Encourage Them to Stay? Issue brief. 2019.

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Executive Summary

The U.S. Coast Guard’s Human Capital Strategy and its Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan 2015–2018 state that the Coast Guard “will attract, recruit, and retain a workforce from all segments of American society to create a high-performing 21st-century workforce.” A key part of this objective is the advancement and retention of women in the Coast Guard. However, despite high retention rates overall compared with those in the other military services, the data indicate that the Coast Guard still retains women at a lower rate than it retains men. The study authors use several methods in their approach. A statistical analysis, which examined Coast Guard personnel data, offered insight into gender differences in retention and whether certain characteristics help explain those differences. The authors also reviewed relevant previous studies and benchmarked documented retention trends in the civilian sector and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). Finally, HSOAC researchers held numerous focus groups with active-duty women in the Coast Guard. The focus groups provided insight for a better understanding of potential barriers to retaining women. In addition, the focus groups included a sample of active-duty men to aid further understanding of men’s reasons for deciding to leave; these male focus groups served as a comparison for identifying factors that were unique to women or seemed to affect women to a greater degree and those factors that were common to both genders.