Thursday, May 30, 2019

Diversity Thursday

Building off of last week's DivThu, let's keep going through the slide deck to see what the Commissariat's approved discussion topics are on female retention, or in this case - females in the Surface Force.

I know;

You've been sufficiently warned. If you want to maintain plausible deniability, just walk away. No one is making you read this. You don't have to come here.

Sorry Captain Ray.

The Executive Summary of the last 43 years is this: as both a percentage and numbers, with few exceptions more females are being brought in while in actual numbers and percentages, fewer men are.

That's your "what," now let's get in to some "so what."

So retention. 

First of all, this graph has all sorts of things wrong with it before we can consider it very helpful. In both style, substance and motivation, the modern Navy started with YG01. YG00 and earlier data is only injecting sub-optimal data into your analysis. 

Second, for the dates of most interest, the averages mean nothing. I don't care for the use of linear trend lines, preferring log, but we'll stick with it.

Third, if YG12 and junior are still in the contract window, their data is garbage for what is needed with the question at hand. That data needs to be cut out too. 

Hey ... let me see what I can do about our bandwidth to binwidth ratio;

There, that is much better.

The YG01-YG11 data is telling you what you need to know:
1. Retention for males is collapsing at a much greater rate, with a much larger population than the smaller increase in retention from females in a smaller group with significantly lower retention rates. Aviators might call that a death spiral.

2. If you have a problem with overall number regardless of sex, you are never going to fix it by focusing on increasing female numbers or retention at the expense of males. It simply can't be done.

3. Female retention is about to plateau. Male is aggressively decreasing. That is your problem.

I give full credit to Captain Ray; this cascade of hard facts is about as direct as one can get on the topic.

With the historical male retention at 40%, you are never going to get to 54.63% anytime soon. With drastic efforts and breaking the wheel of sacred cows, you might get to 50%.

That means that the 4-yr DH tour by FY25 is going to happen. If so, I don't see where in the career path you are going to find a place to do the education the Under is talking about, much less career pauses etc ... at least for the Surface Force.

Retention can't do it on its own.

We need to break the wheel. Shatter the Millington Diktat. I know that, you know that, they know that ... but where is the leadership to make it happen? Can they make it happen?

A different topic for a different day, let's refocus and carry on with the topic of the day.

Here is the hard truth that is on that slide but isn't mentioned; the only way to get the numbers the fleet needs to be ready to fight and win at sea is to stop trying to force-mode more females than we already have. We don't just need more people, we need more males.

That being said, we need to start with two steps:
1. Look at barriers to greater overall retention common to both males and females. Those will be the easiest and quickest to remove or mitigate.
2. Accept that males and females, on average, have different career and life goals. That should be fine. We need to understand that female and male retention rates will never be the same, and that is fine. Individuals in a republic of a free people have agency.

We also need to understand that only a few things translate well from the civilian world. That is why the next slide is problematic.

- We don't "hire for key jobs" - we grow them from the seed corn. With the delta between males and females, there will always be fewer female senior leaders as the pool shrinks faster than the male pool.

- Harassment training is well past saturation. Not much more to gain here. As a matter of fact, seeing how strident some of the SAPR training is getting, more may negatively impact male retention.

- Work-life balance? Sure, on the edges, but we've been working on that a long time. A simply fact remains; Sailors belong on ships, ships belong at sea.

- Female mentors: touchy subject. I have had more than one female officer tell me to the effect, "I want to be married and grow a family and have a Navy career. The senior female leaders I keep having put in front of me are either never married, have no or just one child, or are divorced. I don't want any of what they have."

There are no easy solutions here. We have to ensure we are first focused on making mission, but at the same time do so in line with our nation's values of fairness, inclusivity, and an understanding work environment to the maximum extent possible for all. 

Part of this is accepting that females are different than males, and that is OK. To pretend otherwise is intellectually dishonest and shows contempt to everyone. If a female served her nation for most of her 20s and then wanted out to be a full time mom to raise the next generation of Sailors, then that should be welcomed, honored and respected. As an institution, we should accept and plan for that.

Most of us have a few Shipmates in our lives like the female leader I've known for the last 18 years, since she was a wee JO and I was a LCDR. Recently, she retired shortly after her CDR Command tour. Why? She spent much of her children's life away from them. She has a great husband and extended family who has helped out, but she looked at what was needed "next" and decided it was not worth it. She gave enough time to the Navy - and now it was time for her kids.

Big Navy put a very unwelcome hard sell on her - even trying the guilt trip angle - but she made her call. A good call. The right call.

That should be good enough for her nation and her Navy.

So, we might as well bring up another touchy subject: as we have determined that we need to shore up collapsing male retention and then grow it - let's look at an easy way to start to do that - let our male officers know that we want them. 

How many items and programs have we seen in the last few years specifically targeting female retention, accession, and concerns - or heck, just recognizing them?

In contrast, what message have we been sending to males about how we value them, how we see them? What we think of them? People don't mind being used per se, what they do resent is being taken for granted, disrespected, or considered disposable. Males are no different. 

Males can count faces on pictures too. They actually watch SAPR secondary messages. They see what happens in IGs. 

They are getting your message.

Worth a ponder if you haven't before.

On a whole, a rising tide raises all boats. We can't change biology, but we can change a lot of things. While ensuring a climate of equality and inclusion for all, let's focus on quality of life and quality of work. Retention for all kinds of Sailors will respond accordingly.

If you really want to geek out, do a deep regression analysis on which variables result in more retention. Demographic, education, and even personality type. 

Are we focusing on that data as much as the socio-political variables that make interesting metrics, but don't necessarily give you more Surface DH?

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