Female war heroes, just like their male counterparts, are admired for their bravery, noble efforts and dedication on the battlefield. But they’re also respected for entering an occupation that is known for being male-dominated — after all, women only make up 15.7 percent of the active Army.
And while they continue to fill the gender gap on the battlefield, some set their sights on corporate America, where another gender inbalance exists: only 12 percent of American corporate board chairs are occupied by women, according to CNN. Now, one conference is giving these women the advantage they need.
V-WISE is a program dedicated to helping female veterans by providing what they need to become successful entrepreneurs such as mentorship, connections, coaching and other tools that will help get them into the workplace.
Many women veterans have said the experience was rewarding.
Leah Olszewski, once a captain and a reservist Army military intelligence officer, is now president and CEO of Adaptiv and attended the 2013 workshop in Seattle. “It was a priceless experience,” she told Task & Purpose.
Jennifer Kready, who is in the first stages of starting a co-work space in Williamson County, Texas, learned about the conference via twitter. “One of the challenges as women veterans — we’re not easily identifiable,” she said.
Kready connected with a peer group of business women who are still keeping in touch via a Facebook group. “We’ve taken it to the next level of support,” she said.
V-WISE isn’t the only organization seeking to help female veterans. Women Veterans Connect (WVC) is an online community where women who served in the military can connect with each other, exchange stories, engage with peer mentors and find helpful information.
Jo Ann Martinez started the organization after serving in the Air Force because she realized not all women veterans receive the same support. “My expertise was with women’s veterans,” Martinez told VentureBeat. “I wanted to serve that community for all the mentoring they provided me and I wanted to contribute by helping them successfully reintegrate into the community.”
But while WVC is about supporting returning military personnel, it’s also about supporting women. Martinez’s mission is to encourage women to dive into the tech industry — another male-dominated profession — even if it is intimidating.
“I had my daughter in the same ear that this idea was born,” she said. “It is my mission to not just tell her, but actually show her all of the possibilities that we are capable of as women.”
Such programs and websites can not only help women veterans transition into civilian life, but it can also empower them to take on employment opportunities that are usually dominated by men. According to Task & Purpose, it is important to do research, to have a good plan and above all, to not be discouraged if you are the only woman in the room.
“I would say, don’t wait another day,” Olszewki said. “You need to start now. Life’s too short.”