For 25 years, Lory Manning lived in a universe foreign to many women she knew. She participated in international negotiations and oversaw $3 million budgets. Her path to power: the Navy. Manning, who now works for a nonprofit, says she "never would have gotten these opportunities elsewhere."
Women and minorities often express dissatisfaction with barriers in the civil work force, but, according to a new University of Massachusetts study of 30,000 active-duty personnel, they are the most satisfied military employees. (White men are the least.) The service's racial diversity and rank-based hierarchy "level the playing field," says the study's author, sociologist Jennifer Hickes Lundquist. If the satisfaction among enlisted women seems surprising—especially given that a third reported experiencing sexual harassment in a recent Pentagon survey—there is a possible explanation: "They figure it's part of being a woman in the military," says University of Maryland sociologist Mady Wechsler Segal, who is unaffiliated with the survey. It may not sound like progress, but for a level playing field, it's a risk that some military women seem willing to take.