This International Women’s Month, as we celebrate the achievements and contributions of women throughout history, we must remember to acknowledge the vital role of America’s women warriors.

With women now serving shoulder to shoulder with men as infantry officers, Army Rangers and fighter pilots, it should no longer be a question of whether women have the capability to serve. Women have been proving themselves on and off the battlefield since the onset of the Revolutionary War in 1775. Our country’s women warriors come in all shapes, sizes and fill all jobs required of them. Whether supporting the fight or bringing the fight directly to our adversaries, women are combat multipliers across the force.

In recognizing our women warriors’ many accomplishments, we must continue to educate ourselves and one another about the importance of diversity and inclusion within our military. Through its Veteran Leadership Program, the George W. Bush Presidential Center offers scholars the opportunity to focus on those issues and others that are facing our military members.

As scholars who have participated in the program, some of the projects coincided with what research has indicated for years: both men and women experience higher levels of performance and better retention in organizations that are diverse. As women who have also served in the military, existing research reinforces what we experienced during our time in service: the presence of women has the potential to advance the U.S. armed forces’ skill sets, effectiveness and overall capabilities. In order to continue to do that, the military must focus on ensuring that it is an inclusive organization, where even more women feel compelled to serve in leadership positions through mentorship programs.

Though the Department of Defense is achieving the highest levels of female recruitment in history, our military needs to ensure that it cultivates a gender-inclusive environment conducive to combat constant threats from adversaries such as Russia, China and even the terrorist organization ISIS, all of which leverage the full diversity of their populations against the United States.

Recruiting and retaining more women warriors should be seen as a national priority. It must begin with cultivating an environment in which women, from a young age, are encouraged to serve our country. It must also place more value on the contributions that female service members are already making. As Americans, we all must actively make the decision to position women as the next generation of fighters, critical thinkers, policy agents and leaders.

Fort Irwin

It’s important to note that the military also offers a number of opportunities to women that are often difficult to acquire elsewhere. These opportunities include instilling a greater sense of patriotism and honor, traveling the world and entering a workforce where gender pay gaps are largely avoided. Women veterans are also more likely to be educated and have higher salaries post-service than their civilian counterparts. We wholeheartedly believe that service is a reward in and of itself and it pays dividends for those who seek it.

There is no better time than now for women to take advantage of the extraordinary opportunities the military has to offer, especially as more careers are available to women and more accommodations are open to families than ever before.

For women who have considered joining the military, we encourage you to take that rewarding step and become the women warriors our military and country counts on. For women who have never before considered serving our country, we encourage you to further educate yourselves about all of the opportunities available through service and all of the contributions you stand to make.

For the storytellers in the media and entertainment industries, we encourage you to depict female military service members accurately and inclusively. For civilians everywhere, we implore you to nurture an environment and mentality in which women are emboldened to serve our country and recognized for their contributions.

Most importantly, for the tens of thousands of women warriors who have cemented our place in history and left a legacy of fortitude and fearlessness, this month we honor you.

Kohistany is a U.S. Navy veteran who serves on the Virginia Board of Veterans Services and is the president/co-founder of PROMOTE, a national nonprofit committed to developing inclusive and innovative national security leaders. Mobbs, a West Point graduate and former Army captain, is a clinical psychology pre-doctoral fellow at Columbia University. Moros is a U.S. Army Reserve colonel and currently serves as the vice chairwoman of SoldierStrong, a national non-profit with the mission to help better the lives of veterans. All three women were George W. Bush Institute 2018 Veteran Leadership Program scholars in Dallas.

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