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My friend Tim Sackett had a post last week I thought was compelling - "Marines Say Inclusive Combat Units Are Lower Performing", which a details a major study released by the Marines last week that shows all male combat units perform better than mixed male and female combat units. 

Here's a couple of snippets that Tim shared from Time, which printed a review of the study:

"The results of study speak to the dangers of the Golem effect. Research has shown that when less is expected of a specific group, less is exactly what they will achieve. For decades, women in the Marine GunnyhighwayCorps have been subject to lower performance standards, starting at recruit training. The passive acceptance of second-rate results for women flies in the face of the mythical characterization of the Marine Corps as the most elite of all of the services.

Although female recruits have historically underperformed in every quantifiable category at boot camp, the Marine Corps has never acknowledged this to be a fundamental obstacle to the success and credibility of female Marines. Ultimately, the impact of lowered expectations for female performance at boot camp were reflected across the spectrum of the study’s results.

A Marine Corps mantra is “Every Marine a rifleman.” However, until last year, female recruits achieved an initial qualification rate on the rifle range between 68% and 72%, compared to male averages between 85% and 93%. It became normal for up to a third of every cohort of female recruits to require remediation on the rifle range or be recycled in training."

And one more:

“The gender normed physical fitness test allows women to settle for mediocrity while their male peers are held to more stringent standards including dead-hang pull ups and a faster three-mile run requirement. Considering these disparities, it should not be a surprise that men would outperform the women in the study, nor should the female lower extremity injury rate be considered startling.

The Marine Corps force integration plan summary touts the fact that the recruiting force has seen a 4.5% increase in female enlistments since 2008. But does an increase of women in the Marine Corps really equate to talent management if the women are simply expected to do less? No matter how many women there are in the Marine Corps, if low expectations for performance are maintained, women will never measure up to their male counterparts in any capacity, much less the field of infantry."

Tim make a lot of great points in his post, namely that no one in the HR/Talent industry will touch this, because let's face it, you can't win.  But like Tim, I'm a glutton for punishment, so I'll give you my top observations on what the Marines study means for diversity and inclusion for all of us.  My thoughts:

1. You really can't go into inclusion thinking that whatever group you're bringing in will be held to lessor standards. That type of inclusion gives the team a big, fat excuse. Even in the case of physical strength, keep your job requirements the same and play on. Your inclusion percentage may not hit your goals, but the example of the inclusion you did accomplish will be more impactful to the organization.

2. Quotas don't work. They piss off the group being targeted for inclusion and the inclusion group alike. Let's face it, regardless of the group you're ID'ing for inclusion, there's good people everywhere. Go find them in the inclusion group, keep your standards high and if you need to pay them more to land them, that's a better way to go then going into it expecting most will perform at a lessor rate.

3. Most teams don't operate like the Marines. Teams are generally made up of players that have different strengths and weaknesses, and when you mix them together, it creates high performance - if you get the mix right. So when you're trying to positively impact inclusion in your company, make sure the inclusion candidates you submit have something they're strong at that adds to the total team performance.

4. Feeder groups matter. It's hard to go outside to hire for diversity purposes.  However, if you have feeder groups into a certain job, it makes sense to spend more on development in those groups to have candidates who can plug and play - and understand your business (which automatically gives any candidate more credibility).  

Forced diversity and inclusion doesn't work - but if you don't try and force the issue, at times nothing will happen.  The Marines study offers some perspective about what works and what doesn't.  

What's your reaction?

 

Comments

Leigh Ann Hope

Have a baby...then talk to me.

So a male can shoot a gun with 10% better accuracy...I can grow a human life while performing my day job. Grow a life, then we can compare stats...

But that's just my reaction....:)

Kim Bailey

I understand what you are saying, Leigh Ann. However, to Kris' point, if growing a baby were a skill needed to be a great Marine, then women would have that advantage. As it stands, I want the best shooter defending me. And if that's a woman, great. In our work world where physical is often not a big differentiator, then seeking diversity by finding the best for a role in a different group than you already have just makes sense to me.

TM

I know very little about the military but I read an interesting article on the Cultural Support Teams the military created for Iraq and Afghanistan. It seems to play on the point you mention in #3. The military had a weakness of male soldiers being able to interact with civilian Muslim women. They recruited woman to these Cultural Support Teams to be able to question civilian woman and search women effectively. I have a hard time believing everything in the military relies solely on strength. It is important to look at the unique skills women could bring to the group and weigh that against their potential shortcomings.

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