“At the top of the list” for women leaving the military “is re-connecting with family,” the vice chancellor of Syracuse University told the Army Women’s Foundation last week.
- Michael Haynie, director of the university’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families, said, “I would be willing to bet on it that they didn’t talk about in a transitioning class.” And when they leave the service, “women are seven times less likely to identify themselves as veterans” and that “closes a lot of doors.”
The institute has recently completed a survey of more than 1,000 women who were separating from the military.
He added that over the last four or five years he has heard female service members say, “I don’t feel safe” and not just from sexual assault. “I needed to hear that. [You need] to give people a pathway to deal with it. I think they need a community to deal with it.”
“During Desert Storm, I was the only woman in the crew,” Cathy Christian said of her experience as an Air Force officer. Now vice president for enterprise services and financial systems at Prudential Financial, said sometimes it’s coping with a “why are you here” mentality.
She added transitioning service members need to realize “the camaraderie in the military is very different than the corporate environment” where they ate together, worked together and were housed together.
“It’s OK to ask for help” in the civilian world, but “it’s a hard thing to do.”
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Phyllis Wilson, Army Reserve, said times have really changed. Instead of talking to soldiers about 20-year careers, counselors are talking to them about transitioning to civilian life as the Army continues to downsize.
About 170,000 service members separate annually.
A challenge for women – military or civilian – is they “never know to negotiate” issues such as salaries, job responsibilities, etc. “We don’t self-promote when we’re moving in,” she said.
“We don’t thump our own chests” because the military culture is “everyone is recognized” when a mission is completed successfully. Wilson added, “Male vets have same problem” of not self-promoting.
Kevin Preston, director of human resources veterans initiative at ESPN/Disney, said, “Counseling and coaching is here – one-on-one.” The retired Army colonel cited Disney’s 11-year-old “Heroes Work Here” initiative as an example of this. “I don’t talk to 100,000 veterans,” but “I can talk to one person.”
Christian agreed that talking to the individual was critical, but themes could emerge from these discussion that could benefit the company, such as the management training that Prudential Financial offers on veterans issues and concerns.
Preston stressed the need to begin preparing for separation long before the date arrives. “Make the mistakes when it doesn’t matter” in preparing a resume, working on interviewing skills, even deciding what to do.
“No one has done what you have done” is important to remember. “You have to put it in [corporate] language.”
“We need to hear more from this community,” Haynie said to the foundation members.