As the recent elections and latest headlines have declared, Americans are most worried about jobs and the economy. Sadly, women veterans have even greater reason to be worried about these issues.
A woman veteran between the ages of 18-24 is twice as likely to experience unemployment as a non-veteran woman. Even more shocking, according to data released last week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women veterans who have served since 1990 have far higher rates of unemployment, 20 percent higher, than their male counterparts. At the same time, as recently noted by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen, "women are rising through our ranks and expanding their influence at an ever-increasing rate, serving magnificently all over the world in all sorts of ways."
Even though women have succeeded in the military, all too often that success does not translate at home.
Women veterans face unique challenges that are distinct from their male counterparts. They return from the military with multiple issues facing them in their roles as family caregivers and/or single breadwinners, all in addition to bearing the emotional and physical scars from their military service. Because current veterans' resources are designed mostly for men, successful reintegration back into daily civilian life is that much more difficult for women.
Last month, Business and Professional Women's Foundation launched the Inaugural Joining Forces for Women Veterans Summit, convening corporate, non-profit, and government leaders -- alongside women veterans -- to raise awareness and begin seeking meaningful, life-changing solutions that will enable women veterans to become more productive and successful.
A recent NPR story, suggests that the government is beginning to respond with the right resources. It is time for employers to respond as well.
The wealth of training and experience women veterans bring to the civilian workplace can be under-utilized when women's unique transition needs are ignored. Their impact on our workforce cannot be overestimated; women represent 15% of the military and are the fastest growing veteran population.
Recruiting women veterans is smart business. The military has expended extensive resources to train them to be the most skilled, efficient, inventive, disciplined and adaptable employees. General David Petraeus explained the appeal of hiring veterans best when he said, "Tell me anywhere in the business world where a 22- or 23-year-old is responsible for 35 or 40 individuals on missions that involve life and death. Their tactical actions can have strategic implications for the overall mission." Women in the military are leaders, managers and team members, right along side their male counterparts. Add to this that 95 percent of military jobs are open to women and the advantages of hiring women veterans are obvious.
This year, Veterans Day provides an opportunity for America to recognize the need for public-private partnerships across all sectors to work together to provide women veterans with the resources and job opportunities needed to achieve success as civilians.
After we have taken a moment to reflect on the past and present sacrifices that our women veterans have made, and continue to make, let's not stop there.
Let's continue to work together to provide them with the ultimate show of respect: an opportunity for a job, one that gives them the platform to build on their education, skills, and training, and one that gives them the opportunity to continue fighting for our country, only this time by contributing to the economy.
Find out how you can be a part of our movement at www.bpwfoundation.org.