GI Jane Wants You – Actually she wants to work for you!

by Deborah Frett

flag-150x150As employers,if you are looking for talented, resilient, and mission- driven employee candidates who will bring leadership skills and an immediate return on investment, then the talent pool of women veterans is for you.

The military has expended extensive resources to train the most skilled, efficient, inventive, disciplined and adaptive employees. Women now occupy diverse roles in the military. They are leaders, managers and team members. In addition, they have a strong desire to serve various communities, individuals and causes. This is what brought them to the military in the first place, and it’s a passion that follows them after they leave the military to transition to the civilian community and workforce. Since working women in general also have this attribute, it’s like getting a twofer!

Despite their contributions, women veterans, for a variety of reasons, still face challenges leveraging  their military skills into meaningful civilian careers.Aside from the difficulties of the current economy, women veterans often encounter inconsistent or inaccessible transition resources, misperceptions by employers and co-workers about their skills, work readiness, and readjustment challenges.

Sadly,the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that women veteran unemployment numbers lag behind male veterans and other working women.Underemployment is also a major issue as many women veterans have to settle for jobs that don’t capitalize on their skills in order to support their families.

Start out 2015 with this organizational New Year’s resolution: Make a commitment to tap into this reservoir of high quality talent and make your organization appealing to women veterans.

 How can your association be recognized as a more woman veteran friendly employer?

Here are five key things your association can do:

  1. Promote a positive attitude and appreciation toward woman military service throughout the organization and at all levels within the organization. Frequently, women veterans are not afforded the same appreciation and recognition as their male counterparts for their military service. Make sure it is done during the recruitment process, including the interviewing segment. Conduct hiring campaigns targeted at women veterans that include women-friendly graphics, language and distribution channels in your outreach. Do your utmost to include women veterans on your board of directors and/or executive team.
  1. Ensure that your human resources professionals are knowledgeable about and understand resources and benefits available to veterans, including accommodations available for veterans with disabilities. Familiarize and become compliant with the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act (USERRA). Employers can also benefit from hiring women veterans through special incentives offered by the Veterans Affairs – VeteransEmploymentCenter and the Department of Labor. Start monitoring current employee veteran statistics, including gender. It is also helpful for your HR staff to find resources that will help them translate military experience to related civilian occupational skills.
  1. Offer career counseling and professional and/or skills development resources designedto target women veteran needs. Offer the all-important but often overlooked pre-employment skills assessment and career readiness tools. Many transitioning women service members have never participated in these types of programs and are unaware of opportunities in other functions or positions within your association or the field in general. While former women service members have many unique and sought after skills, often additional education and training will enhance their career transition and advancement.
  1. Provide clear avenues and guidelines for career advancement. After all, performance requirements, advancement ladders, and pay equity are what women veterans are used to from the military workplace and are looking for in their civilian place of work. Women veterans embrace performance reviews and career ladder prerequisites. Conduct formal organizational salary reviews to ensure pay equity. Formalized women’s networks and mentoring programs are also very valuable.
  1. Make certain you have programs that allow for flexibility (work-life balance) in the workplace, including family-friendly policies. Women veterans often leave the service due to family demands. Many women veterans often juggle service member and family member roles. Women veteran candidates find the following employee advantages enticing: telecommuting, job sharing options, flexible scheduling (i.e. part time, compressed work week, flextime,etc.), child care subsidy or reimbursement, and on site child-care.

It is smart business for mission focused organizations to hire and retain women veterans. So make your organizational New Year’s resolution now – Choose GI Jane and take steps to ensure that she chooses you!

For more information and resources visit the Business and Professional Women’s (BPW)Foundation’swebpage.

More About Deborah:

Deborah Frett served as CEO of Business and Professional Women’s (BPW) Foundation from May 2005 through October 2014. She currently volunteers as Chair of BPW Foundation’s women veterans and military families’ advisory council (Women Joining Forces (WJF) Advisory council). Frett is an accomplished executive with over 30 years of experience providing strategic direction and executive management to associations, nonprofits, for-profits and start-up organizations. She is a leading advocate for working women, women veterans, green job development for women, Gen Y women in the workplace and redefining the workplace to meet the needs of the 21st century.

This post originally appeared in the CareerHQ Employer newsletter on January 9, 2015.