VA Palo Alto Health Care System
Commemorate Women’s History Month
VA Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS) joins the nation in commemorating Women’s History Month this March by celebrating the achievements of women and their contributions to our nation’s history.
This year’s Women’s History Month theme, as established by the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute, celebrates the 75th Anniversary of World War II by “Honoring the Past, Securing the Future.” World War II greatly contributed to women’s advancements in various ways. For instance, the war effort brought more women into the workforce, contributed to women first enlisting in the military, and showed the United States how women can contribute to our nation.
VA celebrates these pioneers of women’s achievements in building a nation during a time of war. In 2020, we celebrate these women’s struggles and contributions that led to significant advancements.
While men were enlisted in the military during World War II, women were increasingly taking over positions back home in all sorts of white-collar and blue-collar fields, including construction, steel and lumber. At first, women faced a great deal of discrimination, including lower pay, sexual harassment, dangerous working conditions, and long hours.
As women continued to work with great skill in these fields, they started to gain the respect of their male counterparts. The poster featuring Rosie the Riveter stating “We Can Do It” left a legacy on the influence of women during World War II and signaled a bright future for women.
The U.S. military recognized how women were needed on the front lines to succeed in the war. The following women’s units were formed during World War II: Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC)/ Women’s Army Corps (WAC); Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES); Marine Corps Women’s Reserve; Coast Guard Women’s Reserve (SPARS); Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP); Army Nurse Corps; and Navy Nurse Corps.
According to the National World War II Museum, nearly 350,000 U.S. women volunteered to serve in these units, at home and abroad. These units also encouraged women from racial minority backgrounds to enlist in the war. When women returned from the war, they could not easily access the same benefits available to men, such as the G.I. Bill. Women would continue to stand up for these rights in the future.
As of Sept. 30, 2019, women represented 60.62 percent of the overall VA workforce. Although this may seem like a large number, it remains 4.18 percent below the National Relevant Civilian Labor Force (RCLF) figure of 64.85 percent, which is the benchmark.
Women Veterans make up nearly 16 percent of permanent and temporary women employees in VA. In VA’s permanent leadership pipeline (GS-12 through GS-14), women have lower than expected representation, holding 57.5% of those positions. Women may also have lower than expected representation in executive leadership positions (GS-15 and Senior Executive Service positions), since they hold 41.24 percent of those roles.
On Feb. 11, the Center for Women Veterans, Center for Minority Veterans and Veterans Canteen Service hosted a screening of the documentary, “The Six Triple Eight: No Mail, Low Morale” at VA Central Office. This film tells the relatively unknown story of the WAAC’s 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, also known as the “Six Triple Eight.”
For more information on VA’s Federal Women’s Program, visit the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) web page.