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Before Equal Opportunity: History Month Observance Looks at Women of DIA in the 60s and 70s
April 03, 2012
Documenting contributions of women throughout DIA's history, Historian Judith Bellafaire spoke to the workforce about the extreme difference in the work lives and careers of women in the 1960s and 1970s as compared to today. This special event in the Tighe Auditorium March 8 was sponsored by the Equal Opportunity and Diversity Office (EO) in honor of Women's History Month.
Chief of the Outreach Division (CP-5) Barbara Mays kicked off the event asking the audience to consider the struggles that women worldwide continue to face today. "It is our hope that we are helping women around the world fight for rights that we consider basic: literacy, health care, freedom from violence, economic stability and even political influence," she said.
Mays then welcomed Bellafaire who took to the podium saying that during the 1960s women comprised 34 percent of all government workers, but only one percent of women held jobs above the GS-12 level. On average, women earned 59 cents for every dollar earned by men.
"Working women often faced job discrimination related to the mistaken belief that because they were married, or would most likely get married, they would not be permanent workers," Bellafaire said.
In 1969, President Nixon issued an executive order that required Federal agencies to establish affirmative employment programs to foster equal opportunities for minorities and women. DIA appointed a Federal women's coordinator in 1970 to act as a liaison between DIA and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the advisory authority for affirmative employment functions.
One African-American woman Bellafaire spoke with is a graduate of Georgetown University with a bachelor's in Russian studies and joined DIA in 1969 as a GS-7 intelligence research specialist. When completing her entry paperwork, the woman's job series was realigned to a secretarial track- the pay and grade level remained the same, so it didn't cause her too much concern. When her branch chief noticed the discrepancy, he returned her to the proper series. She believes that it was likely racism that resulted in her initial placement in the secretarial series. This woman went on to apply for a GS-12 promotion as an air capability analyst during the mid-1970s and hid her pregnancy to avoid the possibility that it might influence the interviewer's decision. The woman was hired for the position and returned to work in the office just after her maternity leave, as promised.
Jane McGehee was a visual information specialist in 1978 and was originally offered GS-5 position with DIA. Just a couple of weeks before she was to begin work, she was given a GS-4 because a young married man with a family was also being hired and her boss felt that since McGehee still lived with her parents at the time, taking a GS-4 wouldn't be an undue hardship for her. There was no mention of which candidate was more qualified for the position.
As for women in uniform, less than two percent of the military personnel were female until the all volunteer force was established in the mid-1970s. Air Force Lt Col Yvonne "Pat" Pateman served with DIA during the 70s as an intelligence officer in a reconnaissance technical squadron. She served in World War II as a service pilot, or WASP, and served overseas in the Philippines, Japan, and Vietnam. Her final military assignment was chief of the DIA China and Air Missile Section.
One woman was known for her "steel trap mind and unerring accuracy," said Bellafaire. Dr. Wynfred Joshua was one ofthe first defense intelligence officers (DIOs) at DIA in 1974. The first European and Soviet political and military affairs DIO, she was recognized expert on the Soviet Union and strategic nuclear capabilities. "She commanded enormous respect at DIA," Bellafaire said.
Several women who rose to leadership ranks at DIA during the 60s and 70s appear to have certain skills and qualities in common- most were fluent in a second language and all had the instinct to take on additional work without expecting immediate reward.
DIA is the nation’s premier all-source military intelligence organization.
It provides the nation’s most authoritative assessments of foreign military intentions and capabilities. The agency’s four core competencies -- human intelligence, all-source analysis, counterintelligence and technical intelligence -- enable military operations while also informing policy-makers at the defense and national levels.
DIA’s mission is unique and no other agency matches its military expertise across such a broad range of intelligence disciplines.
This page was last updated November 13, 2013.