Las Jefas! Latina Warriors
By Marisa Rivera
Women have always been warriors. Warriors fighting for equal rights. Warriors who have long battled barriers in the workforce as they fought for equality with their male colleagues, and that includes their participation in the armed forces. Those battles continue as women demand equal access, equal pay, and equal representation at the highest levels. Women also continue to struggle to fight for equality from roles imposed by society that keep us on double duty. Although we have gained the right to enter the labor force and the military ranks, we are still expected to fulfill the roles of household CEOs, caregivers, cooks, mothers, and wives.
At the beginning of this century, women did not have the right to work outside of the home, to get an education, the right to vote, the right to be part of the armed forces, the right to birth control, to own property, and today we continue to fight for equal pay. Women have fought, marched, and have been incarcerated while trying to achieve equality. The history and role of military women throughout the years has been fascinating. Women in the military have fought long and hard for equality, respect, and recognition. Not only have women been an integral part of every major conflict involving the U.S., they’ve done so while also fighting for basic rights and equalities, both in and out of uniform. Female service members have faced unique challenges throughout history and worked to not only overcome them but to prove their worth and value in major ways.
From the battlefields of the American Revolution to the deserts of Kuwait, to Afghanistan, and these past two years, being at the front line combating the war against the Covid-19 pandemic, women have been serving in the military in one form or another for more than 200 years. They have had to overcome decades of obstacles to get to where they are today: serving in greater numbers, in combat roles and in leadership positions worldwide.
Women continue to make history in the military today. Since the opening of combat positions to women (2015), several female service members have trained to step into new roles, sign up for, and complete the most rigorous training programs required to serve in some of the most elite military groups. “Over the past six years, 50 women have graduated from the Army’s Ranger School, and others have successfully completed Navy SEAL officer assessment and selection, proving their capabilities in even the most rigorous and challenging of assignments” (USO). As the history of women in the military clearly shows, female service members are a force to be reckoned.
Female participation in the U.S. military workforce has been steadily rising over the past 50 years. In 1970, women accounted for less than 40% of the civilian workforce and less than 4% of the Armed Forces. Today, women account for 59% of the civilian workforce (Gallup 2020) and less than 17% of the active-duty military, according to a Government Accountability Office. If we look at the statistics below, more Latina women are serving than Latino men, and the same holds true for Black and Asian groups (statistia.com).