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Professor Advises Navy on Gender Equity

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    Associate Professor of Sociology Ryan Kelty.
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February 07, 2014
Sociology professor Ryan Kelty helps a top advisory panel understand issues of gender equity and how they affect unit cohesion.

CHESTERTOWN, MD—Associate Professor of Sociology Ryan Kelty shared his expertise on gender equity in the military workplace with a high-level Navy panel January 29. The occasion was a Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Executive Panel session titled “Building a Gender Neutral Navy,” held in Alexandria,Va.  

Kelty has focused much of his scholarship on military sociology. At the  Executive Panel plenary session he joined Dr. Jessica Milam, the Navy’s director of women’s policy and strategy, in outlining key issues for Naval policy makers to consider as they work to promote gender equity. 

“It is more appropriate to create gender-neutral job performance requirements and assessments than to try to design a gender-neutral organization,” says Kelty. “Seeking a gender neutral organization, in the sense of gender blindness, undermines the foundation of valuing and leveraging diversity in an organization. The goal should not be to erase gender but to value men and women in the organization and use gender differences as a force multiplier.” 

In his 45 minutes of testimony and Q&A with the panel members, Kelty also discussed the relationship between gender and cohesion. “What is important for military readiness is the task cohesion that comes from competence in one’s work, not the social cohesion from affective feelings toward co-workers,” he says. “It’s also key to have vertical cohesion, in the sense that leaders need to understand and be committed to equity and diversity, or else there are negative effects on cohesion and organizational effectiveness.”

As the highest ranking officer in the U.S. Navy, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) sits on the Joint Chiefs of Staff and is the principal naval advisor to the President. The CNO Executive Panel is a Federal advisory committee that provides independent advice and recommendations on a broad array of issues to the Secretary of Defense, through the CNO and the Secretary of the Navy. Its members are eminent authorities in the fields of science, engineering, business and political-military affairs. The Jan. 29 briefings provided panel members with a base level of knowledge to inform their discussion and recommendations.   

Kelty says it was “rewarding to contribute to the Navy’s efforts to realize gender equity within the fleet. The Executive Panel asked good questions and is committed to helping the Navy achieve this goal.”

Earlier in the month, Kelty traveled to Brussels to share his research with a NATO panel studying how civilian employees are affecting the military workplace. Read about that testimony here.

 A graduate of Middlebury College, Kelty holds a PhD in sociology from the University of Maryland, where his dissertation topic was “Civilianization of the Military: Social-Psychological Effects of Integrating Civilian and Military Personnel.” He served on the faculty at the U.S. Military Academy for three years before joining the Washington College faculty.


Last modified on Feb. 7th at 12:50pm by Kay MacIntosh.