WAC Signal Corps field switchboard operators in 1944 Photo Credit: public domain

WAC Signal Corps
field switchboard operators in 1944
Photo Credit: public domain

Did you know? Women military veterans make up 0.57%  of the entire U.S. population.

That number probably doesn’t mean much for you. So, for everyone out there who skims over dry statistics, let’s make this more visual.

Since it’s football season, and I am feeling especially nostalgic, let’s try this:

Imagine if Broncos’ Mile High stadium was filled to capacity (that’s 76,123 people, for you non-football fans out there) –  only 434 seats in the stadium would be women veterans.

Whoa!  We are a pretty small (but distinguished!) group of ladies.

It’s even more impressive when you take a moment to think about the fact that these 434 brave women were not obligated to serve in any way.  They saw that our country needed their service and they volunteered.

So why is unemployment among these brave few soaring? Why does women veteran unemployment remain higher than their male counterparts? Why is it that their service is largely undervalued or unrecognized by employers?

I believe their value is simply lost in translation.  In general, there is a lack of understanding and awareness of military culture – and especially of the role women have played in the armed forces for decades.

Now before we get our hackles up, get bent out of shape, or grab ammunition to defend ourselves on this uncomfortable topic, let’s just take a look at the numbers. Fair enough?

In July 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Report showed that women veteran unemployment was between 28% and 109% above the national average (of 5.3%), for people under 45 years old.  Further, the unemployment rate was two to three points higher for women veterans than men veterans.

But it’s not all doom and gloom – there is good news!

When women veterans do find jobs, they tend to earn more than their non-veteran peers.

However, the bad news is that in order to enjoy this earning advantage, women veterans work longer hours and more weeks a year than non-veteran women.

To compound the problem, women veterans do not experience the same level of equality outside of the service, and often face the gender wage gap when they enter the civilian workforce.

While great strides are being made to improve unemployment among veterans as a whole, we need to do more to recognize and understand women’s roles within the armed forces.

As women veterans, we serve alongside our male counterparts every day, often doing the same job for the same pay, making the same sacrifices, and enduring the same hardships.

As new jobs open for women within the military, these positions will only strengthen the contribution women have made for decades.

As we head toward Veteran’s day this November, please take time to acknowledge the service and sacrifice of our women veterans. These brave few who, when their country called, had the courage to stand up, raise their hand, and say “send me”.

 

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