Four decades ago, Lieutenant (junior grade) Beverly Kelley, U.S. Coast Guard, became the first woman to take command of a naval vessel. Yet today, women continue to leave the services at higher rates than men. In 2019, the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center (HSOAC) identified barriers to female retention in the Coast Guard. Issues identified in the study include concerns regarding advancement, assignments, and sexual harassment and assault.1 One of the study’s recommendations is to “explore creative solutions to female berthing limitations.”2
One creative solution would be to end the archaic policy of gender-segregated berthing aboard cutters. A shift to unisex berthing will further advance the Coast Guard’s commitment to supporting female careers and reduce instances of sexual assault and harassment, likely improving female retention and mission effectiveness.
1. Kimberly Curry Hall, Kristen M. Keller, David Schulker, Sarah Weilant, Katherine L. Kidder, and Nelson Lim, Improving Gender Diversity in the U.S. Coast Guard: Identifying Barriers to Female Retention, Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center, operated by the RAND Corporation, 2019.
2. Hall, et al, Improving Gender Diversity.
3. Hall, et al, Improving Gender Diversity.
4. Cheryl McCall, “She's Beverly, Not Shipwreck, Kelley—and the First Woman Ever to Command a U.S. Man-of-War,” People Magazine, 30 April 1979.
5. Ida Irene Bergstrøm, “Unisex Rooms Made Gender Insignificant in the Army,” Kilden GenderResearch.no, 14 March 2014.