Women in Combat: Does Integration Lead to Equality?


Wednesday, November 15, 2017, 2:30pm to 4:00pm


Cason Seminar Room - WAPPP, First Floor, Taubman Building, HKS

Join us for the next installment of the HKS Gender and Security Seminar Series, a discussion with Dr. Megan MacKenzie, Associate Professor of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney. Dara Kay Cohen, Associate Professor of Public Policy at HKS will moderate. 


Women in Combat: Does Integration Lead to Equality
Dr. MacKenzie's presentation explores the history of the combat exclusion and the recent integration of women into combat roles. It introduces the equal/different double bind as a framework for understanding the impossible expectations often put on women in male dominated fields. Women are expected to be equal and integrate fully into the work culture; yet they are also expected to ‘add value’ and transform institutions. Does this equal/different double bind set women up for failure? Her presentation explores this question through an analysis of women in combat.

The policy excluding women from combat roles in the US military was removed in 2013. Since then, the first classes of female Infantry and Armor officers have graduated at Fort Benning. Removing the combat exclusion was heralded as a success for women in the military and a sign of gender inclusiveness in the military. It was described as an opportunity for women to excel and take more leadership roles; it was celebrated as the last obstacle to breaking the ‘brass ceiling’ for women in the military. Dr. MacKenzie's presentation evaluates whether the positive expectations placed on integration have been realised. It points to the role of gender bias and sexism in sustaining the combat exclusion for so long, and explores whether integration alone can overcome or unravel ongoing gender bias and sexism in the US military.


About the Gender and Security Seminar Series
The HKS Gender and Security Seminar Series, coordinated by Dara Kay Cohen, Associate Professor of Public Policy, brings leading experts from academia and the policy world, working at the intersection of gender, human rights, and security, to Harvard Kennedy School. Speakers discuss their research in progress or share their perspectives on current policy debates. The seminar series covers issues of national security during the fall semester and international security during the spring semester. The series is co-sponsored by four centers at HKS: the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Carr Center for Human Rights, and Women and Public Policy Program.