Equal warfare

Apr 27, 2007

Research that won a Kettering University faculty member and her colleagues a "Best Management Paper" award at an international conference shows that women think they will perform well in a combat zone, but military men disagree.

Women drivers.

A terrible stereotype. No truth to it whatsoever. In fact, some women drivers have had tremendous impact on the world of motor sports. Look at Danica Patrick, or Lyn St. James' storied career. Yes, stereotypes like this only continue to propagate an attitude toward a group of individuals that in most cases is simply unfounded.

It does, however, underscore succinctly the attitudes women have faced regarding pre-defined roles men and women fill in U.S. society. For instance, take the attitudes toward women's roles in society, specifically the military, from 1993 to 2004, and how certain stereotypes are in simple terms completely inaccurate.

Dr. Regina Greenwood, associate professor of Management, co-authored a paper titled "A Long-Term Study of Sex Differences in Attitudes toward Women's Roles in the Military and Combat" that won the Best Management Paper award of the North American Management Society. This paper describes a research project designed to examine women's roles in the military and in combat situations. Her co-authors are Dr. Ed Murphy of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla.; Dr. Bahaudin Mujtaba and Dr. Terrell Manyak of Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Greenwood and her colleagues presented this paper at the MBAA International Conference in Chicago, Ill., March 28-30.

The paper describes their study to examine changes in attitudes toward women's roles in society, specifically the military, from 1993 to 2004 using the Spence, Helmreich and Stapp Attitudes toward Women scale. This scale, through a short series of behaviorally anchored statements, is designed to determine respondent attitudes toward the roles women have in society. The responses can range from traditional, conservative attitudes to liberal, pro-feminist attitudes and anywhere in between.

The team surveyed 500 respondents in 1993 and 2,560 between 2002 and 2004, and found that although both women and men became more equalitarian-that is, men and women feel they should have equal political and social rights-women became even more equalitarian. Furthermore, while men and women believe that women belong in the military, female respondents indicated that women would perform as well as men in combat while men felt that women should not be in combat occupations.

Technically, women who serve in the military in Iraq, for example, "are not in combat," Greenwood explained. In many cases, they serve in support roles for troops, but can be swept up in situations where combat comes into play. "Casualty lists show women service personnel among those who have died," she added.

But as far as women taking roles directly related to actual combat, Greenwood said that the U.S. Congress would probably never approve of this, simply because of the public stir and perception it would create. Additionally, there is no "political capital related to this topic," she noted. Since mothers in U.S. society are held in high esteem and are viewed as the central figure in a family, it would be very difficult to juxtapose this role with that of a women soldier in combat.

The paper also addresses previous studies that have explored attitudes toward women's role in society and in various occupations in the short-term. However, their paper takes a much broader approach between 1993 and 2004, examining changes in male and female sex role attitudes toward the role of women in the military and combat. As their paper points out, society passes on its expected roles for men and women through the socialization process, with each generation teaching their offspring how to succeed in their male and female roles in society.

Yet changes in social structures have led to changes in attitudes toward women's roles in society, the authors contend. For example, many women now lead large corporations or serve in leadership roles in state and federal governments. Greenwood also said that in recent years, the military has begun to shift from "a warrior-leader ideal to a culture that mirrors society in terms of equalitarianism and inclusiveness. But most studies still show that the majority do not feel that placing women in combat situations is advisable." The study concludes that although traditional stereotypes have changed, some stereotypes still exist, which continue to marginalize the value of women in the military.

Greenwood cites Dr. Edward F. Murphy, Jr. of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and a retired military officer as the principal investigator in this paper. In addition, this paper is one part of a larger effort titled Global Culture and Entrepreneurship Research Group with which Greenwood currently works. She currently teaches management and strategy courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and has taught at Kettering since 1996. To learn more about this research, contact her at rgreenwo@kettering.edu.

Written by Gary J. Erwin
(810) 762-9538




Edward F. Murphy, Jr., Embry Riddle Aeronautical University
Regina Greenwood, Kettering University
Jaime A. Ruiz-Gutierrez, University of Los Andes, Columbia
Terrell G. Manyak, Nova Southeastern University, Canada
Bahaudin Mujtaba, Nova Southeastern University, Canada
Arnel Onesimo O. Uy, De La Salle University, Philippines
Shaista E. Khilij, George Washington University
Miguel R. Olivas-Lujan, Tec de Monterrey, Mexico
Dora M. Luk, City University of Hong Kong
Sergio Madero, Tec de Monterrey, Mexico
Neusa Maris Bastos Santos, Ponticicia University Catholica de Sao Paulo, Brazil
Mark Woodhull, Schreiner University, Texas