Women Veterans are a huge value-add to the workplace. Employers find it in their best interest to be proactive in their search for Women Veteran employees, so they implement special programs to recruit them. But, some employers might discover that there are nuances to Women Veterans’ transition experience, which demand employers’ careful attention. While this may be challenging, there are several things employers can do to create a more seamless experience.
The Unique Experiences of Women Veterans
Recent research has shown, indisputably, that Women Veterans face unique stressors when they transition from the military. A variety of factors influence this.
Navigating Gender Stereotypes and Bias
Women Veterans may encounter gender stereotypes and bias when transitioning to the civilian world. Some people may hold preconceived notions about the roles and capabilities of women in the military. This bias can manifest as skepticism about their leadership, technical, or physical skills, making the transition to civilian employment difficult. Women Veterans may find themselves having to work harder to prove their qualifications and abilities, which presents an additional layer of complexity in Women Veterans’ transition experience.
Providing Sole Childcare Responsibility
Women Veterans who are also mothers often bear the sole responsibility for childcare. Balancing the demands of parenting with the challenges of transitioning can be exceptionally stressful. Finding suitable childcare arrangements while seeking employment or attending job interviews can be logistically challenging. Furthermore, the financial burden of childcare can add to the stress, particularly for single mothers.
Healing from Military Sexual Trauma (MST)
Military Sexual Trauma refers to sexual assault or harassment experienced by service members during their time in the military. Unfortunately, MST is a significant issue affecting Women Veterans. Many have endured these traumatic experiences. When transitioning out of the military, the psychological impact of MST can resurface, leading to feelings of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Coping with MST while adapting to civilian life can be an overwhelming and isolating experience, which can impact a Woman Veteran’s experience at work.
Defining Her Identity
Transitioning out of the military can create a sense of isolation and disconnection. Women Veterans may find it difficult to relate to civilian peers who may not fully understand their military experiences. Many Women Veterans describe this experience as a loss of identity. Additionally, they may miss the close-knit bonds and camaraderie that military service often provides. This sense of loneliness can create obstacles to Women Veterans’ seamless transition into a civilian workplace.
5 Ways to Support Women Veterans’ Transition Experience
The fact is, employers can play a huge role in smoothing this transition. From recruitment to onboarding and beyond, employers have an important opportunity to pave the way to a successful and meaningful civilian career for Women Veterans.
Here are 5 ways that employers can support and empower Women Veterans’ transition experience.
1. Tailored Onboarding and Training Programs
Develop customized onboarding and training programs for Women Veterans to help them bridge the gap between military and civilian work environments. This can include orientation sessions that explain company culture, policies, and expectations in clear and accessible language. Plus, this will foster a sense of respect and clear communication, which will smooth the transition experience in remarkable ways.
2. Mentorship and Peer Support
Implement mentorship programs that pair Women Veterans with experienced employees who understand the organization’s culture and can provide guidance. Encourage informal peer support networks to help Women Veterans navigate challenges and provide a sense of community. Doing so will prevent fears or lonely feelings of being a “fish out of water,” as new Women Veteran employees will develop trust in experienced employees who are happy to guide them.
3. Flexibility and Work-Life Balance
Recognize the potential challenges Women Veterans may face in balancing work with family responsibilities. Offer flexible work arrangements, such as remote work options or flexible hours, to accommodate their needs. Also, proactively communicate resources and support for mental health care. Encourage a stigma-free environment where seeking help is viewed as a sign of strength. This can ease the transition, cultivate a positive work environment, and reduce stress related to childcare and other obligations.
4. Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives
Actively promote diversity and inclusion within the organization. Create an environment where all employees, including Women Veterans, feel valued and respected. Train staff to recognize and combat gender bias, ensuring that Women Veterans are evaluated based on their skills and performance rather than stereotypes.
5. Veteran Recognition and Networking Groups
Form Veterans groups within your company or organization. These groups can provide a sense of community and camaraderie for Women Veterans and their colleagues who have served. Also, they can serve as platforms for recognition, where the achievements and contributions of Women Veterans are celebrated and acknowledged. This not only fosters a strong sense of belonging but also highlights the unique value that Women Veterans bring to the workplace. Encourage these groups to engage in outreach, mentorship, and community service activities to further strengthen the bonds between Women Veterans and their colleagues.
Intentional Leadership Is the Best Way Forward
These strategies, when implemented thoughtfully, can help employers create a supportive and empowering work environment for Women Veterans during their transition from the military.
By recognizing the unique challenges they face and offering tailored support, employers can harness the valuable skills and experiences that Women Veterans bring to the civilian workforce, ultimately benefiting both the individuals and the organizations they join.