BPW commits to scaling up Joining Forces for Women Veterans and Military Spouses Mentoring Plus. This initiative aims to connect women veterans and military spouses with working women mentors to guide them in finding jobs and careers. BPW intends to pair 1,000 mentees with mentors in 2012. As the focus of this Commitment to Action, BPW will work with small and larger companies to define their commitments to leadership and to providing mentors, expertise, resources, and jobs for women veterans and military spouses.
BPW's overall interest in working women helping women work inspired this initiative, benefiting both mentors and mentees. This project will make sure women veterans' skills and distinct transition needs are capitalized on in developing new careers with guidance and encouragement of mentors. Their entrepreneurial ambition will be fostered through mentors and online resources to encourage more business owners. Veteran-owned businesses account for 14 percent of U.S. small businesses - and women are an important component within this population. Similarly, military spouses will focus on their career potential, combining years of paid and unpaid skills and experience to find sustainable career paths. Importantly, the mentors themselves will benefit from sharing expertise and insights to help veterans and military spouses.
Joining Forces Mentoring Plus will train volunteers from BPW's supporter base (50,000), legacy network (10,000), partner companies, and network of women's coalitions. Volunteers will tap experience to coach and empower veterans and military spouses through a combination of online resources and personal interaction that will help them successfully transition back to civilian jobs.
Team with corporate and organizational partners (Q1)
--Identify potential partners, including existing mentorship programs
--Convene partners to formalize project and roles
--Develop partner MOU and commitment matrix
Identify and recruit women veterans and military spouses in transition (Ongoing)
--Develop outreach materials and activities for veterans and women's organizations and networks
Focus on top issues for women veterans and military spouse entering, transitioning, or advancing in the workplace (Q1)
--Develop guideline, priorities, and expertise needed for effective mentoring
--Produce virtual communication, and hands-on toolkit as guides for participating organizations and mentors
Recruit and train mentors (Q2)
--Develop webinar and in-company training for mentors
--Build website resources
Track outcomes to build program participation and growth (Ongoing)
--Develop tools to benchmark progress and outcomes, and success stories
--Develop website to post and promote mentor and mentee participation, progress
--Conduct ongoing review, outcomes assessment and make revisions with leadership partners
Provide ongoing resources and mentors and mentees (Ongoing)
--Document skills related to military experience
--Create on-line tools and links to resources and models in areas such as financial management, credit, planning; veterans benefits awareness; social networking; resiliency training; and civilian employment
Promote ongoing company and organization commitments to women veterans (Ongoing)
--Recognize and promote 'best practices' to attract, hire, and advance women veterans and military spouses in the workforce
--Demonstrate effectiveness of mentoring to onboard and advance women veterans and military spouses
Promote long-term program growth (Ongoing)
--Use business and social networks for ongoing recruitment of mentors
--Encourage and work with existing veteran mentoring programs to include women mentors for women veterans and military spouses
Women veterans represent a growing, and often 'invisible' segment of the labor force. This commitment will address unemployment among women veterans and help these women make meaningful contributions to the U.S. economy. In addition, it helps companies hire skilled veterans as part of their search for talent. Since 1980, the population of women veterans has grown 65 percent to 1.8 million, and 150,000 additional women are projected to leave the military by 2017. By 2020, women veterans will comprise 10 percent of the nation's veterans, a uniquely qualified group seeking civilian jobs. Yet, in the last quarter of 2011, the jobless rate for Iraq and Afghanistan women veterans was 16.8 percent. Unemployment for military spouses is approximately 26 percent. A wage gap of about 25 percent exists between military spouses and their civilian counterparts. And, while the overall homeless veteran population is decreasing, it is increasing for women.
Joining Forces for Women Veterans and Military Spouses Mentoring Plus is a response to Business and Professional Women's Foundation's (BPW) ongoing research and discussions with women veterans and leaders of women veteran-serving organizations. BPW's groundbreaking 2007 survey of 1,600 women veterans of all ages and eras highlighted translation and portability of skills as major obstacles and underscored an overwhelming gap in career and employment support after return from service. In October 2010, BPW convened an inaugural Joining Forces for Women Veterans National Summit with over 75 leaders from business, non-profits, and government to listen to women veterans and identify employment access strategies. During 2011, BPW Foundation developed a methodology to assemble an employment-focused career development framework. Companies and organizations will work with BPW to provide trainers, mentors, expertise, technical assistance, and jobs that specifically enable these women to compete and succeed in the workplace.