As a kid, and later on in school, I had dreams of becoming a bakery owner, a ballerina, a Hollywood power agent, and the editor-in-chief of the New York Times. Not once did anyone tell me I couldn’t be those things. In fact, I was always told that if I worked hard enough I could achieve any goal.
Realizing dreams sometimes involves more than hard work, but I still believe that if I seize opportunities and apply myself, I’ll reach many of my goals. I credit my optimism to having never been told “you can’t.”
But things may have been different if I had expressed a desire to be a three-star general in the military.
For decades, women in the military were told “you can’t”—not because they didn’t work hard enough or complete the necessary training and gain the relevant experience—but simply because of their gender. This is unfair, but it also works against the best interests of both the military and the country, which benefit by having the most capable soldiers filling positions—regardless of gender.
But things are changing for the better. I applaud the Pentagon’s decision to lift its direct combat ban on women a year ago. This means that women will be integrated into ground combat positions in each of the services. And because combat service is often the ticket to the highest ranks, it increases women’s opportunities to move up the chain of command.
Just a week ago, the Army announced its decision to open to women 33,000 positions in ground combat units that had previously been closed to them.
This is progress. And it means that many women in the military are about to hear “you can” instead of “you can’t.” Now, a girl dreaming of becoming a three- or four-star general has even a better shot of making it.
For more information on the integration of women in combat, please click here.