In navies, last gender barrier is the ocean's surface

From Foreign Policy Thu Jan 24 2013, 00:05:57

To everyone's surprise, 2013 might prove a historic year for women in the U.S. military, as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced Wednesday that the Pentagon will remove the ban on women in combat.

All the attention is focusing on ground troops, but it's actually on the high seas that the last glass ceiling, or in this case high-strength alloy steel hull, is being shattered. Last October, the Navy announced that beginning in January, women will be allowed to serve on attack submarines for the first time, and the number of women in crews on Trident-class submarines will also be increased.

And the United States isn't alone. Britain has also said that this year will see the beginning of female participation on Royal Navy submarines, and countries such as Canada and Australia have already seen successful integration of women in submarine crews.

While these changes are being welcomed by men and women around the United States, the question remains: Why have submarines proved the final stubborn frontier? Out of the 42 countries that use submarines, only six allow women to serve.

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