Most moms are familiar with the challenges of re-entering the workforce after time spent caring for their home and family.
However, not many can relate to the challenges female veterans face making the transition from military to civilian life. Perhaps you assumed veterans have it made when they leave the military. After all, there are government programs in place to serve them and they receive valuable training that prepares them for stable, rewarding careers.
In our work with female veterans at Attitudes & Attire™, we’ve learned that our perception is often far from the reality these women face when they finish their service to our country and prepare to face the civilian workforce.
In fact, an estimated 160,000 men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are currently out of work and looking for employment. Many female veterans have never applied or interviewed for a civilian job. Being a soldier is the only job she’s ever had and jobs in the military are vastly different from jobs in the civilian world.
We see a woman in uniform as confident, self-assured, strong and capable. However, once she sheds the uniform and sets off to make her place in the civilian workplace, she often struggles to find her place in the world. She questions her value and toils with her self-esteem.
Research has shown that women veterans face challenges that are different from those of their male counterparts, including raising children on their own or dealing with the psychological after effects of events such as military sexual trauma. These issues can have adverse effects on her self-esteem, self-confidence and employability.
There are no ambiguities in the military. You are told where to work, what to wear, what your salary will be and the chain of command is clearly laid out for you. But civilian jobs are rife with ambiguities. You choose what jobs to apply for and what positions to accept. You might even need to negotiate your salary and benefits.
Women who once carried M-16s and braved the dangerous back roads of Iraq tell us they are afraid to go on job interviews. In the military, you don’t have to interview or write resumes. “I just went where they told me to go,” notes one veteran.
Women are the fastest growing group of veterans today and their numbers are expected to increase dramatically in the next 10 years. In addition, while the number of homeless veterans is declining, the number of homeless female veterans is growing.
The female veterans who come to Attitudes & Attire™ are proud women—proud of their service to their country and their accomplishments. It is difficult for them to admit they need help. They are strong, capable women who are determined to take control of their lives and their future. With guidance and the necessary resources, they can be confident, self-sufficient members of society with so much more to offer their community and their country.
In honor of Veterans Day, I would like to recognize the tremendous sacrifice these brave women have made for our country and our future. Like all our veterans, we owe them a debt of gratitude we will never be able to repay.
In 1996, Lyn Berman founded Attitudes & Attire™ out of a desire to encourage and inspire women facing difficult life situations. She saw a need to address areas not traditionally covered in workplace training, including raising self-esteem and providing work-appropriate attire. Since the program’s inception, more than 16,000 women have acquired tools to build the confidence they need to succeed. For information, please visit attitudesandattire.org. Find the organization on Facebook by clicking here.