Last week, my senior course selections were due, and one of the classes for which I applied was my school’s Interdisciplinary Senior Capstone course. That class allows a select group of students to take on year-long research projects on something about which each student is extremely passionate. Before making the selection, each prospective student has to submit an application about what they want their project to focus on for the year.

As I applying for the course, I had to think of an issue I could spend months researching, writing, and talking about without getting sick of it. After a conversation with my GirlSecurity mentor, I had the answer: the barriers keeping women out of national security.

We were talking about what it’s like to be a woman in a male-dominated field such as national security when she mentioned a focus group she was part of that was working to address why so few women were in national security. The idea of researching that topic piqued my interest. I had so many questions about how to get more women involved.

How do women get into the national security field? Were those pathways typically male-dominated pathways? Do we need new pathways? Do we need education and outreach programs in colleges? In high school? Are there mentoring opportunities for women in the profession? How accessible are they? Do we need more flexible workplaces?

I realized this is exactly the kind of research I would be able to do all year long as part of Capstone if I chose this as my project. If I am selected for the class, I plan on surveying national security professionals and conducting interviews with young women and female leaders to get an inside perspective on the issue. I would also like to speak to young women that are potentially interested in joining the national security field about what doubts they may have and what obstacles they have faced so that not only challenges faced by women already in the field can be analyzed, but also factors keeping women out in the first place. I may also need to talk to historians and professors that have studied women’s history and national security and could speak to policies and laws that have made entry into the national security field challenging. Historians could also refer me to existing research and journal articles on this subject that I could read for background information.

My goal with this project would be to educate the public on the reality of the situation that women national security professionals face in the workplace. By creating a project focused on growing public awareness, more attention could be called to the lack of women in national security and steps could begin to be taken to address it.

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