Looking For A Gender Gap In The Army? Try The Army Chief Of Staff's Reading List

Opinion
U.S. Army photo

On Aug. 9, U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley released his Professional Reading List, an annual collection of books recommended for Army and civilian personnel to better understand the range of military, economic, political, and future issues facing the service, the country, and the world. Our review of the list revealed a significant blindspot. Of Milley’s 111 recommendations, only one was written by a woman.


The lack of female authorship reflects a legacy worldview within the military that is shortsighted at best, and, at worst, biased against equality of women in society and the military. These lists signal the perspectives valued by the chief of staff as he considers his Army today, and its future plans. The skewed ratio of 111 male voices to 1 female voice communicates a leadership message of inequality that he should correct.

We value the military’s professional reading lists because they shape thought processes and decision-making tendencies of officers, non-commissioned officers, enlisted personnel and the civilian workforce. They influence the syllabi at service academies, where the minds of an influential segment of the future officer corps are molded. They drive Army professional development and help to determine which articles are shared across units and commands.

U.S. Army photo

Professional military education teaches service members that military success depends on analyzing political-military options from a diversity of sources. Unfortunately, Milley’s list reinforces prevailing male-dominant thoughts of the world and the Army. With women’s writings essentially not present, Milley shrinks the range of perspectives with which Army personnel should grapple, degrading their readiness and professional preparation.

Reading lists can reinforce or challenge embedded professional biases as the military transforms its warfighting for the 21st century. Milley’s seems to imply that there are no credible female authors whose work speaks on topics relevant to the Army’s future. We would argue that Amy Webb’s The Signals Are Talking: Why Tomorrow’s Fringe Is Tomorrow’s Mainstream provides important insights into how global trends might affect individuals and societies, which could help Army personnel better anticipate changes in their career paths or the nature of the future fight.

The composition of the list also runs counter to trends in the military and the private sector, where most leaders are promoting female voices, leadership, and equality in the workforce. Top-tier firms like Google and Uber have fired personnel and toxic leaders due to perceptions of anti-female organizational climates. In society, conference organizers now avoid all-male panels, lest they suffer the ire of attendees or negative publicity. The Department of Defense has opened all of its occupational specialties to women, on urging from Congress. In contrast, Milley’s unbalanced list is out of tune with prevailing governmental and societal policy and practice.

This issue is not Army-centric: the Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force share similar deficiencies in their lists. While the service chiefs are ultimately accountable, their respective staffs, which propose many of the titles, share responsibility for the lack of diversity among referenced authors.

U.S. Army photo

Milley and his staff were not without resources to consult. Women Also Know Stuff, Foreign Policy Interrupted, and Bulbula were all created to serve as clearinghouses of female expertise across a host of disciplines. These organizations could have recommended notable books, such as Condoleezza Rice’s Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom, Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan’s Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, and Susan L. Marquis’ Unconventional Warfare: Rebuilding U.S. Special Operations Forces.

Thankfully, Milley’s recommendations rightly call for the Army to gain greater understanding of the environments and cultures in which it fights; of the causes and consequences of conflict; and of alternatives to violence. But here too, many female authors are readily available. Moreover, some female authors have written foundational texts in fields critical to national security, such as Martha Crenshaw’s Explaining Terrorism: Causes, Processes and Consequences; her work has been cited by hundreds of books and journal articles.

Other female authors who could have been included are challenging conventional wisdom. Elisabeth Jean Wood’s research in Insurgent Collective Action and Civil War in El Salvador identifies new motivations for citizens supporting rebellions. With terrorism and internal conflict representing critical challenges for the military, Milley could have recommended books like these to improve the diversity of inputs that drive Army planning and training.

Perhaps most surprisingly, Milley’s list demonstrates a lack of political savvy and self-awareness at the four-star level that should give his civilian leadership pause. For example, Warriors and Citizens: American Views of Our Military, edited by Dr. Kori N. Schake, should have earned a place on his reading list for its excellent description of how soldiers are perceived in our society, both as warfighters and as veterans. It also happens to be co-edited by Milley’s boss, Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

U.S. Army photo

Congressional overseers should question the shortsightedness and bias demonstrated by Milley’s recommendations. Many of them know that women make up 14% of the Army’s million-plus members, especially those who pushed for gender equality in the force. Yet Milley seems blind to how a male-dominated list might signal a preference for male voices in the Army, at the general’s conference table, or still worse, atop future promotion lists.

We do not deny that the majority of the research done in fields of interest to the military has historically been conducted by men. But times have changed. Women are breaking important ground in these fields. From Monica Duffy Toft’s Securing the Peace: The Durable Settlement of Civil Wars to Isabele Allende’s Inés of My Soul, female authors are writing on novel topics and regions of the globe that Army personnel could have been more thoughtfully encouraged to explore.

As chief of staff, Milley has a duty to lead his personnel to new intellectual ground, even if that terrain is unfamiliar. To his credit, he has done this in some subject areas. However, he would be wise to admit his mistake in overlooking so many female authors. He should update his list to reflect the intellectual battlespace of today, where women’s voices are increasingly heard, referenced, and respected.

Meg K. Guliford is a PhD Research Fellow at the Center for Strategic Studies at The Fletcher School and a Truman National Security Fellow.

Erik J. Leklem is civil-military relations lecturer with the Naval Postgraduate School and a Truman National Security Fellow. Views expressed are their own.

On a military base, a black flag is bad news. That means it's too hot outside to do anything strenuous, so training and missions are put off until conditions improve.

As the climate changes, there could be plenty more black flag days ahead, especially in Florida, a new analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists found. America's military bases could see an average of an extra month of dangerously hot days by mid-century. In Florida, they could quadruple.

Pentagon data shows heat-related illnesses and injuries are on the rise in every branch of the military. Last year, nearly 2,800 troops suffered heatstroke or heat exhaustion, a roughly 50 percent jump from 2014.

"I think most of us, if we hear there are tens of thousands of cases of heat stress in our troops every year, our minds would go to where they were deployed," said Kristy Dahl, a senior climate scientist at UCS and the lead author of the study. "But more than 90% of the military cases of heatstroke happened right here at home."

Read More Show Less
In this March 12, 2016, file photo, Marines of the U.S., left, and South Korea, wearing blue headbands on their helmets, take positions after landing on a beach during the joint military combined amphibious exercise, called Ssangyong, part of the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle military exercises, in Pohang, South Korea. (Associated Press/Yonhap/Kim Jun-bum)

BANGKOK (Reuters) - The United States and South Korea said on Sunday they will postpone upcoming military drills in an effort to bolster a stalled peace push with North Korea, even as Washington denied the move amounted to another concession to Pyongyang.

The drills, known as the Combined Flying Training Event, would have simulated air combat scenarios and involved an undisclosed number of warplanes from both the United States and South Korea.

Read More Show Less

An opening ceremony will be held Monday on Hawaii island for a military exercise with China that will involve about 100 People's Liberation Army soldiers training alongside U.S. Army counterparts.

This comes after Adm. Phil Davidson, head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, spoke on Veterans Day at Punchbowl cemetery about the "rules-based international order" that followed U.S. victory in the Pacific in World War II, and China's attempts to usurp it.

Those American standards "are even more important today," Davidson said, "as malicious actors like the Communist Party of China seek to redefine the international order through corruption, malign cyber activities, intellectual property theft, restriction of individual liberties, military coercion and the direct attempts to override other nations' sovereignty."

Read More Show Less

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to "act quickly" to reach a deal with the United States, in a tweet weighing in on North Korea's criticism of his political rival former Vice President Joe Biden.

Trump, who has met Kim three times since 2018 over ending the North's missile and nuclear programs, addressed Kim directly, referring to the one-party state's ruler as "Mr. Chairman".

In his tweet, Trump told Kim, "You should act quickly, get the deal done," and hinted at a further meeting, signing off "See you soon!"

Read More Show Less

It is impossible to tune out news about the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump now that the hearings have become public. And this means that cable news networks and Congress are happier than pigs in manure: this story will dominate the news for the foreseeable future unless Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt get back together.

But the wall-to-wall coverage of impeachment mania has also created a news desert. To those of you who would rather emigrate to North Korea than watch one more lawmaker grandstand for the cameras, I humbly offer you an oasis of news that has absolutely nothing to do with Washington intrigue.

Read More Show Less