It’s no secret that since the recession hit, post-9/11 veterans have faced a greater rate of unemployment and underemployment than the civilian population. But what many Americans may not know is how difficult it is for female veterans, in particular, to find employment.
Based on July’s unemployment numbers, 11 percent of post-9/11 vets that are women didn’t have jobs, compared with 9 percent of male vets and 7 percent of female civilians.
Once they’re out of the military, many female veterans struggle to find a job that pays them anything near the salary they earned while serving their country. Adding to the problem is that 20 percent of them have husbands in the military (compared with 4 percent of servicemen whose wives are in the military), making them vulnerable to losing a job due to reassignments.
All these factors have led to an increase in the number of female veterans struggling with the ability to provide housing for their families.
The Business and Professional Women’s Foundation (BPW) aims to turn this trend around through a mentoring program focused on helping female veterans get on a promising career track.
Deborah L. Frett, CEO of BPW, tells Sandy M. Fernández of Redbook magazine, “People say, ‘What’s the big deal? They’re just like male vets.’ But they’re not. They’re women, they’re veterans, they’re often the family caretaker, they may be single moms — these are all groups with their own employment challenges, and they come together in female vets.”
One such woman is Dawn Smith. After her military service, Smith, an Air Force veteran and mother of four, struggled to find job that paid well and made use of her experience. All she could find was a job at a federal agency, earning a salary that was substantially lower than the one she received from the Air Force — so much so that she sometimes had to forego dinner so her children could eat.
Smith joined the BPW mentoring program and through her mentor, learned how to retool her resume so that it aligned with her career aspirations. It worked. Smith tells Fernández, “Soon I was hired by another federal agency at twice the pay.” From there, Smith went on to start her own business. “Everything feels more doable when someone has your back,” she says.
On Nov. 10, BPW and Redbook will hold a career readiness event for about 200 unemployed female veterans — covering everything from finding mentors to what to wear for interviews. Hopefully, the seminar is just the first step in launching many fruitful careers for female veterans.
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