Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said she doesn’t see “any barriers to opening up” the remaining seven career fields currently closed to women once there are “gender neutral and operationally relevant standards” in place. Speaking at ASC15, James said the Air Force is already the “most open” of the military services, and that leaders have been working to put appropriate standards in place for currently male-only positions since then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced in January 2013 his intent to lift the ban on women serving in combat. “I say let the best person—whether that person is a man or a woman—compete for the job,” James said, adding that the service must ensure standards are not lowered under any circumstances. Additionally, James said, the Air Force is doing a Defense Secretary-directed review of issues related to transgender troops, including how to make reasonable accommodations for those already serving and whether to recruit transgender people. The review is not finished, but she said she thinks the Air Force will take a “lean forward” approach. “No matter who you are, no matter what you look like, if you are capable [of] doing your job, if you are a good airman, if you believe in integrity, and service, and excellence in all we do, then we’re trying to lean forward and say, ‘You’re the type of person that we want in our Air Force,’” James said.