This Veterans Day (11/11/11), take a moment to ponder the sacrifices that our military and veterans have made and continue to make on behalf of all U.S. citizens. How might you express your appreciation?
A heartfelt "thank you" would be wonderful. Certainly, fly the American flag at the entrance to your home. And yellow ribbons are an acceptable tribute. But what veterans, especially women, could really use are a hand up and a foot in the door. "Actions speak louder than words" is a clichéd statement, but it holds true. Do more than pay lip service and make symbolic gestures.
Right now, the economy is grim for all, but many veterans are facing even harder times. The overall jobless rate has been hovering around 9 percent, however for veterans, it has been almost two percentage points higher in 2011. In October, the unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans was 12.1 percent for men and 14.7 percent for women.
Today, less than one percent of the population actively serves in the military. We are less likely to personally know someone on active duty than at any other time in our history, but their commitment and work on our behalf is no less personal. The number of citizens who are veterans of military service is less than 10% of the population. Of those, 1.8 million are women. With women making up 15 percent of the armed forces today, they represent the fastest growing segment of the veteran population. It is our responsibility to recognize and demonstrate appreciation for this special and mighty group of citizens.
Since 2007, Business and Professional Women's (BPW) Foundation has been conducting research about women veterans and seeking solutions to ensure them a successful transition from military to civilian life. Women veterans bring abundant training and experience to the workplace, but often need help translating those skills into a civilian career.
Our research has indicated that mentors can provide the "foot in the door" and network connections that are so crucial for obtaining employment in the current environment. Mentoring can help guide women veterans towards jobs appropriate to their skills and experience.
This is why BPW Foundation is launching the Joining Forces for Women Veterans Mentorship Program. With partners like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the USO, AARP, Ed2Go/Cengage, ICF International, Alliant Credit Union Foundation and Military to Medicine we will be providing the tools and mentors who will support women veterans. We are also proud that our program has been recognized by the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden as part of their Joining Forces initiative. The program's aim is to develop mentoring relationships that will assist women veterans and military spouses find and develop successful, meaningful careers. The mentors will support these women as they navigate both the job market and the workplace.
One day a year, we honor veterans. Consider celebrating this Veterans Day by thanking veterans with words and deeds. In addition to helping boost morale in such a tough time, we need to provide our veterans with the resources and job opportunities necessary to achieve success in their post-military lives. Veterans have given time, energy, and sometimes their health to protect our country. Let's work together to provide them with a job; not a hand out but a hand up to employment that builds on their education, skills, and training.
You can also consider making a personal commitment by being a mentor. Learn more about the issues faced by women veterans and how to offer a hand up by visiting the BPW Foundation website at www.bpwfoundation.org. Support our veterans all year-round and not just on one day.