, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 99-119

Equal opportunity in the U.S. Navy: perceptions of active-duty African American women

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In 1989, the Navy Personnel Research and Development Center (NPRDC) developed a service-wide survey to assess the equal opportunity climate of the Navy. This survey, known as the Navy Equal Opportunity/Sexual Harassment Survey (NEOSH), is administered to a random sample of Navy women and men every two years. Each year the survey has been administered, results have indicated that African American women are the least satisfied with the equal opportunity climate of the Navy than any of the other aggregated groups. In an effort to explain and expand upon the findings of the NEOSH, NPRDC organized a group of facilitators in 1995 to conduct focus groups of African American Navy women. The present study is based on data from these focus groups.

The women in this study exemplify what some researchers refer to as the “double whammy” phenomenon: disadvantaged because of both their race and gender. The data also lend support to theories of tokenism. An interesting finding is that regard-less of how dissatisfied the African American women were about the equal opportunity climate in the Navy, they still viewed job opportunities to be better in the Navy than in the civilian sector. Recommendations from focus group participants for improving the Navy EO climate are presented.

She received her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1987. She served in the U.S. Army for six years, and also serves on the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, the councils of the Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society, and the Peace and War Section of the American Sociological Association. Among her publications is a book titled, To Serve My Country, To Serve My Race: The Story of the Only African American WACs Stationed Overseas During World War II, New York University Press, 1996.
He earned his doctoral degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from the United States International University. During his naval career, he has written numerous articles and technical reports on equal opportunity, sexual harassment, race relations, and quality of life issues.