Women veterans without doubt face some of the same challenges that men veterans do during there transition from the military to the civilian workforce. Challenges such as identity crisis, as I’ve posted about previously, difficulties translating our transferable skills into a civilian framework, the fallacy that we veterans can’t think creatively as all we do is take orders, the confusion about the leadership role rankers play and the misconceptions about our leadership styles (we aren’t all Battery Sergeant-Major 'Shut Up' Williams from It ain’t half hot Mum!).
Although we share many of the same challenges as our male counterparts it is important to identify that there are gender specific challenges for veterans, outlined within the study "We also served" probably one of the most comprehensive studies conducted in reference to women veterans in the UK.
In addition to this, it is vital to note that we also face the same barriers other women do in the workplace. Including the well-documented gender wage gap and leadership gap issues, a greater likelihood that we must balance career goals with caregiving responsibilities or our partners service responsibilities if you are a military spouse, and the ongoing battle reference fair maternity policies and flexible working such as #flexappeal gallantly being spearheaded by Anna Whitehouse and Matt Farquharson of Mother Pukka. (I must note that flex appeal campaign is for everyone not just women!).
Now for good measure, let’s throw in the fact that as women coming out of the military, known to society as a predominantly male organisation, we often find ourselves as ‘the odd one out’.
Definitions from Oxford Languages · Learn more
Odd one out
phrase of odd
a person or thing differing from all other members of a particular group or set
Fact is, at present, women veterans are underrepresented, unknown even, from somewhat of a hidden community, invisible shall we say; revealing our service can often be dumbfounding to others, including potential employers, as they suddenly no longer know what tidy box or category to put us into.
After the release of my first blog I was told by a non service woman, in her 30’s…
"I knew women served, but never really considered women as veterans"
or some words to that effect… #truestory #knifetwist #societalmisconceptions
Although it’s fair to say, particularly with the recent announcement of new funding into research for female veterans plus the plans by the government to develop a women veterans' strategy, that things are definitely going in the right direction for our community of women veterans. The intention for change and equity is absolutely there, however the full suite of required actions and resources are yet to be in place. Therefore this doesn’t change the fact that now, today, women veterans are still often finding themselves facing all of the above challenges, plus many others, fairly independently.
With all this in mind I offer up 4 things that women veterans can start doing today to support themselves with their own transition and succeed in the civilian workforce:
1. DO NOT HIDE! Always value your military service, announce it and be proud of it! It is a part of you and the skills you have gained while serving are invaluable. Your skill-sets are unique and include exactly what most, if not all, employers are looking for. Such as problem-solving, teamwork, high-confidence leadership, life experiences often including time abroad and exposure to different cultures, not to mention your ability to pivot, be proactive and forecast. To paraphrase Liam Neeson “you have a unique set of skills!”
2. Seek out companies that authentically appreciate veterans: companies that are active members of the armed forces covenant. These companies often have programs that help veterans adjust to their new careers and resources such as peer mentors and professional development classes that make the transition easier. A prime of example of this is Amazon most recently endorsed by @johnnymercer the Minister for Defence People and Veterans of United Kingdom
3. Learn about the industry and any company your considering joining: check out employee reviews, connect with employees, check their records on pay; are they below, within or above national average for that job? Look at how and who they promote and look at their policies on things that matter to you such as parental leave. Using websites like Glassdoor.com can be helpful and enlightening.
4. Build a positive eclectic network: a good mix of individuals including both veterans and non veterans. Social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram etc) is excellent for this! I myself am only just appreciating the benefits of this little tit bit! Ask your network about their experiences. Look for people who work in the industry you want to work in, ask all the questions! Do your research. Consider finding at least two mentors: a veteran and non-veteran woman. Learn about both of their experiences in the civilian workforce to ensure you get a well rounded view point and enable you to cultivate your own understanding and prepare. Remember prior preparation and planning prevents p~%s poor performance and all that.
It’s important that until we have equity in transitional resources, the workplace.. in fact NO, I will rephrase…until women have equity full stop, it’s vital that we use our community to continue to support one another.
However what’s truly imperative as women veterans is that we are proud of and recognise our service as an asset and we continue to utilise the hard earned skills we learned in service by remaining diligent, unwavering and focused during our transition from military life to civilian life.
Like your time in service, the transition/reintegration is a personal journey that only you own.
So own it.