By Lt. Laura K. Stegherr, Diversity Directorate Public Affairs
WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Chief of Naval Operations Heritage Committee commemorated the 90th anniversary of women's right to vote at a Women's Equality Day celebration at the Arlington Annex Aug. 26.
The luncheon event featured galleries of notable Navy women throughout history, and as a reminder of the day's significance, voter registration forms were also made available for attendees.
"Today's event is about celebrating the opportunities women have in our nation, and recognizing the many contributions they have made to our Navy," said Yeoman 1st Class Monica Long, member of the Heritage Committee and one of the organizers of the event.
"Within our organization you will see Sailors and civilians who come from all walks of life," said Long. "Events like this one recognize the importance of bringing all those perspectives and experiences to the table."
August 26 was established in 1971 as Women's Equality Day to commemorate the passage of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted women full voting rights in 1920. The passing of the amendment was the culmination of a nationwide civil rights movement by men and women that first began in 1848 at the world's first women's rights convention, in Seneca Falls, N.Y.
According to Clarence Johnson, principal director of the Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity (DEOMI), the commemoration of Women's Equality Day has special meaning for the Armed Forces.
"Today, our nation has made remarkable progress towards equality for women," said Johnson. "The observance of Women's Equality Day not only commemorates women's history, but celebrates the women of today who are still on the battlefield fighting the continuing fight of equality."
With the passage of the Women's Armed Services Integration Act June 12, 1948, women gained permanent status in the Armed Services. The first six enlisted women were sworn into the regular Navy July 7, 1948 and Oct. 15, 1948, the first eight female officers were commissioned.
Women were first assigned to selected non-combatant ships in 1978, and opportunities were later broadened to include service in combatants in 1994 following the repeal of the combat exclusion law. Most recently, in April, the Navy announced a policy change that allows women to serve on submarines.
Today, 95 percent of Navy billets are open to women, and women are permanently assigned to all ships, afloat staffs, Naval Construction Force units, and aviation squadrons.
Currently, 53,374 active-duty women and 10,587 female Reservists are serving in the Navy, comprising 16.3 percent of the force. The Navy has 33 female flag officers and more than 50 command master chiefs. Additionally, nearly 50,000 women serve across the Navy in a wide-range of specialties as civilian employees.
According to Stephanie Miller, director of the Navy's Office of Women's Policy, the trend for women in the military is forward.
"With women comprising nearly 58 percent of all college graduates, the demographics of our nation indicate an increase in women as the knowledge workers of today," said Miller.
"Talented female officers, Sailors and civilians are a key component of our total force, and they are an invaluable asset to the strength of our Navy," said Miller.
For more information on the contributions of women to the Navy's legacy, visit http://www.history.navy.mil/special%20highlights/women/Women-index.htm.
For information on Navy women's policy, visit http://www.npc.navy.mil/AboutUs/BUPERS/WomensPolicy/.
For more news from Chief of Naval Personnel - Diversity Directorate, visit www.navy.mil/local/cnp-diversity/.