New Report Outlines Coast Guard's Retention Problem

To retain a diverse workforce, the Coast Guard needs to update its policies around family and career advancement efforts – and rethink its weight and body fat measure program, a new study finds.

Titled “Why Do Women Leave the Coast Guard, and What Can Be Done to Encourage Them to Stay?” the report from the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center examines the root causes for attrition of women in the Coast Guard and lays out retention recommendations.

The main hurdles to retaining women in the Coast Guard center around three topics, the report found: work environment, career issues and personal life-related matters. The female respondents cited poor leadership as a top reason women leave the Coast Guard. Gender bias and discrimination also strongly contribute to women leaving the service, they said.

The female participants also took issue with weight standards and the measurement of body fat -- neither of which they said was aligned with job ability.

Female focus groups cited issues with career advancement, some saying they are often assigned duties that are stereotypically female activities. Female participants also said receiving assignments to undesired locations can drive women out.

As for family-related matters, the women cited spouses, children and pregnancy as key factors in many retention decisions. Some focus group participants said they felt that sooner or later, they would be forced to choose between the Coast Guard and family.

Acknowledging there’s no one solution to the retention challenge, the report proposes a series of recommendations. Those include updating the personnel management systems to better meet the needs of its current and future workforce; finding ways to minimize parental leave’s impact on evaluations and promotions; and changing the weight and body fat standards program to minimize negative impacts on female members.

High Speed Coast Guard Patrol Boat, Cleveland, Ohio, USA

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