Wright-Patt Women’s Initiative Team strives to eliminate barriers

  • Published
  • By Jaima Fogg
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – A small yet mighty group at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is leading change for women in the workplace.

The Women’s Initiative Team is a barrier analysis working group under the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Directorate that focuses on identifying systematic barriers and unique issues for women in the workplace, both military and civilian.

“One of our primary goals is creating a team, a sense of community, so that women from both the civilian and military sectors know that they do not have to face their barriers alone,” said Maj. Elizabeth Foley, a public heath instructor at the 711th Human Performance Wing.

At the installation level, WIT is focusing on three lines of effort:

  • New parent support groups, lactation room mapping and awareness
  • Barrier identification and analysis for women in the workplace
  • Women’s health and performance research

Twenty-one percent of active-duty Air Force Airmen are women and many report experiencing microaggressions in the workplace that are female-centric.

“Women should feel welcomed, and the percentage of women serving is growing. They help protect our country and have a very vested interest,” said Cassie Clouse, a researcher in the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Human Effectiveness Directorate.

“A lot of the women serving have children. Parenting as a female service member is hard. Dropping off their kids early, trying to do their job and many have postpartum physical obstacles to overcome and are still expected to PT, which can cause further damage to their bodies if not done correctly. It can seem impossible.”

Clouse is partnering with 711th HPW’s Signature Tracking for Optimized Nutrition and Training, or STRONG lab, to study and better understand women’s health and fitness needs and help the Air Force recognize that the differences between women and men exceed simple anatomy. Female hormones, menstrual cycles and physical issues that stem from pregnancy and childbirth are complex and often misunderstood.

Even top female leaders report experiencing injuries and ailments from returning to rigorous physical training too soon post-pregnancy.

“You feel like you need to show that you are not a weak link and that you are still a member of the team,” Foley said. “Many women feel they need to work twice as hard, damaging their bodies, because of this mindset and we need to shift away from that.”

The Air Force’s WIT program has a larger scope and lines of effort. It has been instrumental in advocating for maternity flight suits, revised female hair-grooming standards to include the wear of ponytails and the option to fly through second semester of pregnancy.

Anyone is welcome to join WIT. Meetings are held the first Tuesday every month in person and on Teams. For more information, contact the WPAFB Women’s Initiative Team at WPAFB.WomensInitiativeTeam@us.af.mil.