Recent debate over integrating women into U.S. military combat units presents an opportunity to examine the gender identities and experiences of women in the military. Here, we examine the context-dependent prominence of intersecting identities including work role and gender ascribed to female soldiers in Special Operations. Using a mixed methods approach, based on 28 focus groups with 198 soldiers and a survey conducted with 1701 men and 214 women, we argue that female soldiers’ experiences refute their male colleagues’ assumptions regarding their ability to serve in combat units. The experience of identity in the workplace is different for men and women because women experience fluidity in their identity depending on with whom they are interacting and where interactions occur, whereas men experience and understand gender identity as a fixed, static trait. Although women experience the fluidity of their gender identity based on context, their male colleagues remain oblivious to the contextual nature of gender identity while also maintaining their authority in policing the boundaries of gender in the military context. Our research adds nuance to literature on identity, demonstrating the fluctuating nature of ascribed identity, which shines light on the socially constructed, artificial barriers to women’s ascension in the workplace.
Sex Roles – Springer Journals
Published: Aug 9, 2016
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