An exploratory study female surface warfare officers' decisions to leave their community
Graham, Sharon L.
Thomas, Gail F.
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The purpose of this exploratory study was to discover the reasons that female Surface Warfare Officers (SWO) leave the Surface Warfare Officer Community and to identify paths that might encourage them to stay. Seven focus groups and nine interviews were used to gather qualitative data from three groups: 1) SWOs who had expressed intentions to leave the SWO community; 2) officers who had laterally transferred to another Navy community; and 3) individuals who had separated from the Navy. Altogether, 49 individuals participated in the study; 23 women and 26 men. Men were included to examine gender similarities and differences. Based on responses from all participants, six major themes emerged to explain why both male and female officers may leave the community: 1) inconsistent leadership; 2) negative aspects of the culture; 3) lack of passion; 4) inability to achieve work/life balance; 5) excessive work-hours; and 6) the mundane nature of some tasks. Only three themes emerged that were different for the women: 1) inflexibility of career for family planning; 2) lack of positive senior role models; and 3) a perception of discrimination, sexual harassment, and lack of respect for women. It appears that the Navy may need to attack the retention problem on a number of fronts if it wishes to improve the retention rate for women. Continuation pay, which is currently a primary lever for increasing retention, was not viewed favorably as a means for getting male or female officers to stay in the community. The thesis concludes with recommendations for further research.
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