Women and Minorities Have Become Harder to Recruit, Prompting Air Force To Diversify Its Leadership

Due in part to a marked increase in racial strife, recruiting Black men, Hispanic men and women to the Air Force has proved itself more difficult within the past few years, spurring the Air Force to prove that opportunities — especially those in leadership — are open to everyone, reports military.com.

"Young people only aspire to be what they can see," Chief of Staff Gen. Charles "CQ" Brown told reporters at the Air Force Association's Air Space & Cyber conference in National Harbor, Maryland, according to military.com. "If they don't see someone that looks like them in a higher position, or they have not had an opportunity to experience it, then they're less inclined to do so."

Since last December, two Air Force inspector general reports have found career disparities for racial minorities and female service members. According to the reports, these service members weren't advancing as quickly in their careers when compared to their white male counterparts.

Seeking to correct that imbalance, the Air Force restructured part of its promotion system in a way that has leveled the playing field for diverse groups of officers, said Brown. Under the old system, pilots, who are more likely to be male and white, tended to fare better than other officers within the Line of the Air Force promotion group — which at one point represented about 87% of active-duty officers, according to military.com.

Now, however, that single promotion group has been split into six smaller and more specialized career field categories, meaning officers will compete against officers with similar career backgrounds, explains military.com. For example, maintenance, logistics and security forces officers won't be competing with pilots for promotion.

Still, the promotional restructuring doesn't fix the fact that pilots are more likely to be white and male, said Brown. That's why he pointed to the Flight Academy Scholarship Program, which offers accredited private pilot license training programs to Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets. The program, which offers 230 scholarships valued at about $22,500 apiece, hopes to boost pilot diversity by providing the opportunity to fly to those who may otherwise never have one.

Additionally, Maj. Gen. Ed Thomas said the Air Force recognizes the unique role that female and minority recruiters have in reaching out to prospective Air Force members of similar backgrounds.

"To help counsel those minorities, females, others, that these are real opportunities, we want them to be able to see themselves in these roles," he said, according to military.com.