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Joining Forces: Women Veterans Speak Out: What a Difference a Year Makes!

Posted by danielleac on November 21, 2011

Read the latest article of BPW Foundation’s every-other-week Joining Forces feature that brings us the voices of women veterans telling their stories.  If you are a women veteran who would like to share your story, please contact us through our Joining Forces for Women Veterans Facebook page, or email dcorazza@bpwfoundation.org.

What a Difference a Year Makes!

By Danielle Corazza

Over a year ago, I signed on as the woman veteran subject matter expert for Business and Professional Women’s Foundation (BPW), a national non-profit focused on serving the needs of working women, especially underserved populations. As I would soon learn, BPW was among the first organizations to recognize the transition struggles that women veterans were experiencing as growing numbers left the service, and to address the invisibility of women veterans as a unique cohort.

After performing an in-depth study with 3,000 women veterans in 2007, the trends became clear: women veterans were suffering. Issues such as transition and reintegration struggles, trouble securing meaningful employment, and even worse, alarming rates of homelessness, were cropping up in the majority of the women interviewed. BPW knew action was needed. As very few evidenced-based programs existed to aid this population, the next step was to become a force for change, a role BPW is well-versed in as its origins trace back to the suffragette movement.

To heighten awareness of the plights of women veterans and to bring powerful partners that could assist in making a difference on board, the inaugural Joining Forces for Women Veterans Summit was held in October 2010. Representatives from 60 organizations attended, from the White House to AARP to the USO, each with their own ideas and interests, but all focused earnestly on finding solutions for the women veterans.

As I watched from behind-the-scenes during the Summit, I saw many an eye tear up, and truly grasped the fact that this audience cared. Not just the “I sent a contribution” surface attention that most veteran issues receive, but an honest, sincere commitment to make a difference in the lives of the women veterans who needed advocates, helping hands, and guidance to make their transitions to the civilian lives complete.

The year since the Summit has raced by and I’ve watched the astonishing pace with which the women veteran wave has crested, gaining traction in the government, the veteran service organizations, and the corporations who recognize the inherent strength and value women veterans possess. Thanks to the Summit and follow-up efforts, multiple companies have stepped forward to solidify private-public partnerships with BPW that match the best resources from both sides to maximize the contribution to the women veteran effort.

It’s to this point that our latest programming is aimed: how to assist women veterans after they’ve secured meaningful employment, how to help them excel in the civilian workplace and society. Research shows that providing women with mentors accelerates their understanding of external expectations and organizational culture, as well as providing enhanced opportunities for both the mentee and mentor’s promotion and satisfaction. Using this evidence-based foundation for development, BPW has partnered with the US Chamber of Commerce, with support from the White House, to match 10,000 women veterans with mentors by the end of 2012.

To find out how you can help, or to stay abreast of the project as it launches, visit www.bpwfoundation.org.

As more women transition out of the military, I urge you to get involved and stay connected. If you need help, it exists, and if you want to help, an extra pair of hands will never be turned down.

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