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Differences are what make us unique. They should be embraced and celebrated. Instead, many people shy away from discussing diversity and choose to pretend it isn’t important.

Working in diverse environments is beneficial for all involved. Teams with members from a variety of backgrounds make us work harder and are more innovative. Diverse groups mean diverse thought processes and different sets of skills and experiences being brought to a problem. When people with different experiences work together, more solutions are offered than when surrounded by people from the same background.

Encouraging diversity means recruiting from a much broader pool of candidates. When recruiting from a larger audience, there’s a strong potential to vastly increase the quality of service. If more candidates apply for a job, there’s a better chance of finding the best one. These groups may not consider military service as an option, simply because it was never presented to them as one. By targeting recruitment efforts to these groups, it improves the chance of generating diversity in the military.

A family history of military service is often the biggest indicator of someone’s likelihood to enlist in service. For women or members of certain racial and ethnic groups, there may be no family history of service. Seeing high-ranking military officials that represent their population will also help in recruiting women and minority populations as having proper representation can influence how you see yourself.  

Making the military more ethnically diverse has made large strides in recent years. In 1990, only 25 percent of active-duty military were from a racial or ethnic minority group. In 2015, 40 percent of active-duty military were from those groups. While racially diversity has improved drastically, gender diversity is rising at a much slower rate.

In 1990, 11 percent of active-duty military personnel were women. In 2015, that number rose to 15 percent. In terms of leadership, 17 percent of active-duty officers are women. The military remains male-dominated, but with women now eligible for combat positions, diversity will continue to improve.

As the military is designed to serve the population, the military should be representative of that population. Diversity in the military sets a great example for the rest of the country that people from all backgrounds can work together to tackle some of the toughest problems.