His strategy to have women make up at least 25 percent of all new Marine Corps and Navy enlisted recruits may seem ambitious, but Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said he considers that just a starting point as the sea services move to become more female friendly to women.
"One in four, that's been thrown around. I'd like to do better than that," Mabus told reporters Tuesday following an address at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.. "I think that one in four is a floor, not a ceiling, and if people keep using one in four, I think it's going to be."
In a series of talent management initiatives released last month week, Mabus and Navy officials set forth a timeline: increase female enlisted accessions to at least 25 percent of all accessions by next year.
For the Marine Corps, this represents a radical demographic shift. Only seven percent of Marines are women female, making the Corps the most male-dominated of all the military services.
Though Mabus did not directly address a question about how to span the yawning chasm in Marine Corps demographics to meet his goal, he said both services were set to become more accommodating to attract and keep women.
"The services have got to be friendlier when you come in, because even if you get enough women, we're losing too many between eight and 12 years," he said.
Other talent management initiatives that Mabus said will help recruit and keep more women include doubling paid maternity leave for Marines and sailors from six weeks to 12, opening childcare centers earlier and closing them later, and improving co-location policies to avoid separating married service members.
"If both the husband and wife are military, we're going to do a better job," Mabus said. "It won't be 100 percent, but we're going to do a much better job of co-locating people and not having a geo-bachelor [situation] so you've got a single parent there." he said.
Involuntary separations are the norm, she said, and deployment schedules don't take into account the added strain for dual-military couples.
"The military still largely is stuck in its 1950s model of a man working as a single provider for a wife who stays at home," she wrote.
Mabus also suggested that the Navy and Marine Corps may see new recruiting initiatives in coming months targeted at women that highlight new options available to them. On the Navy side, he said recruiting is already paying off, with female students making up more than 27 percent of the incoming Naval Academy class.
"We've got to do a far better job in terms of recruiting and we've got to show [women] that they can have a career path that can lead to the very top, but also that it's a far more flexible career path than it's been in the past," Mabus said.