A Perspective on Women’s Success After Service
I was in the fighter pilot community in 1991 when women broke the glass ceiling preventing them from serving on combat aircraft, and the first female fighter pilots entered the squadrons.
It was one moment in a series of advances when women successfully fought for the right to defend our nation and protect our freedom – coming more than four decades after women were officially recognized as members of the military and 15 years after they won the right to attend U.S. Service Academies. Years later, while in a combat role after 9-11, I proudly served beside women and watched them positively impact our nation’s mission.
Hire Heroes USA helped more than 1,000 female veterans to successfully find new careers in 2017. Through more than a decade of working one-on-one with our clients, we have found that women veterans experience additional challenges to gaining meaningful employment. In the military, women are a true minority, making up only 14.5% of the total force. In addition to that, only recently have they been allowed to serve in a greater number of combat roles. As such, women veterans are forced to overcome stereotypes, prejudices and career-limiting rules–challenges not faced by their male counterparts.
Women veterans encounter many of the same issues as their male peers when finding employment, such as not knowing how to conduct a successful job search, struggling with translating their military skills, and facing an undue prejudice from serving in the military during an active war. However, they also encounter additional barriers that stem from being a minority in a male-dominated profession. These challenges include greater childcare responsibilities, more health concerns, less education, and sexual trauma issues. On top of that, women veterans struggle with unemployment at a greater rate than their civilian counterparts. In fact, the post-9/11 veteran unemployment rate of 5.6% for women remains higher than the 3.6% national average. An even more concerning statistic is that women veterans are also between two and four times more likely than non-veteran women to experience homelessness.
Changing the Narrative
Hire Heroes USA recognizes all of these barriers, and we are actively working to change the narrative. Our primary focus is career transition because we believe finding a great job – and the sense of self-worth, financial health, and community integration that goes with it – is an upstream event that leads to positive, downstream outcomes for women veterans. Through intentional program personalization, and support from organizations like the Cheryl Saban Self-Worth Foundation for Women & Girls, and the Walmart Foundation, we are working to overcome these barriers so women veterans achieve greater success in the civilian workforce.
In March, Hire Heroes is celebrating the accomplishments of women in the military and their significant impact. We are also working to better understand the barriers women veterans face when looking for civilian employment, and sharing the stories of those who have been successful. Women veterans bring great strength of character, sense of purpose and diverse talent to the American workforce. Our nation will be better if we celebrate their accomplishments and support their future.
Christopher Plamp, Hire Heroes USA Chief Operating Officer and interim CEO, and a retired Air Force fighter pilot
Erin Johnson, Hire Heroes USA Director of Development and U.S. Navy veteran
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