Let the hand-wringing begin about unit coherence problems if men see women naked and tired (wait, I’m having a flashback to the delivery room). The real impact of the Pentagon’s decision to greenlight women in combat roles is giving female soldiers access to more than 200,000 jobs previously off limits. Along with promotion eligibility that used to be off the table.

This is not new territory. In the corporate world, women were shut out of boardrooms for most of the last century, and even now according to the Committee for Economic Development, women in the ranks of Fortune 500 boards number just 16%.  (That’s the same percentage of women who are uniformed officers, by the way.) This lack of boardroom experience is often cited as the missing criterion for women seeking top corporate posts.  Just like a lack of combat experience  shuts many women out of top military posts. And top pay. 

In the arts world, the story is the same. Few symphony orchestras have ever had a female conductor. With a few historic exceptions (Antonia Brico – Berlin Philharmonic, 1930; Nadia Boulanger – Boston Symphony Orchestra, 1938), Marin Alsop at the Baltimore Symphony is one of the only women conductors leading American orchestras today. And no woman has ever led the “Big Five,” which pay at the top of the scale (New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Chicago). 

I’m hopeful that qualified and determined women can now get access to top-paying careers in the military.   So more can join the ranks of Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody, the first woman promoted to four-star general—waaaaaay back in 2008.

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