Female Veterans Already Have What it Takes

By Beth Dumbauld

When you think about what characteristics it takes to join, and be successful in the military, certain words keep coming to mind. Words like committed, capable, motivated, loyal and strong. A certain mindset also comes to mind, along with a set of attributes like willing to do what it takes, or gets the job done. When a women’s time in the military is through, these characteristics and capabilities aren’t left behind; instead they become fused with the many other strengths female military veterans bring to their communities, their careers, or their pursuit of a higher education.

Don’t Call Me Mrs.: A Military Veteran not a Military Spouse

Unfortunately, not all women returning from military duty are openly embraced, with the corresponding honor and respect, as the military veterans they are. It’s not as traditionally common, or perhaps, not as expected for a woman to be a veteran. Some female veterans are even mistakenly assumed to be the spouse of a male veteran, if they have spent time overseas, not the returning veteran herself. However, women are a growing segment within the military. If you are a female veteran, you certainly aren’t alone. Currently, women make up 15 percent of the active military and are a growing segment of the veteran population.1 According to the 1990 Census, there were 1.2 million women veterans. By the next census in 2000, that number increased to 1.6 million, with an estimated 1.74 million by the end of fiscal year 2010 and projected to increase to 1.9 million in 2020.2

Think about it. The impact of these growing female veteran numbers as a proportion of the overall veteran population is, and will continue to be, huge. In 1990, only 4 percent of the veteran population was women; in 2000, it had grown to 6 percent. With projected increases in the number of women in the military relative to men, the proportion of the veteran population which is female is also projected to increase steadily: 8 percent in 2010 to upwards of 10 percent by 2020.3

According to a study by the Business and Professional Women’s Foundation, many programs and policies designed to assist veterans were set up to meet the needs of male veterans from a different era.4 Women, with their competing roles as mother, wife, student, employee and unique status as veteran will need to look to each other, outside resources, and internal reserves to combat the challenges they face as they embark on the road towards completing their college degree. (Some even get a head start by taking distance learning courses while still serving.)

Furthermore, it’s critically important for a female military member to act on creating a transition plan early, prior to leaving the military. A flexible, get-it-done mindset can go a long way towards enabling a female veteran to work towards obtaining the education and career that fits her lifestyle and professional goals as a civilian. By acknowledging and actively using the core strengths developed during their military experience, female veterans can propel themselves into the life, and education, they want.


1 Women Veterans In Transition: A Research Project of Business and Professional Women’s Foundation, Building Strong Programs and Policies to Support Women Veterans, 2007, p.2 http://www.bpwfoundation.org/documents/uploads/WomensVeteransinTransitionBriefII_ForDecisionMakers.pdf

2 Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Policy and Planning, Women Veterans: Past Present and Future, September 2007, p.8 http://www.va.gov/womenvet/docs/WomenVet_History.pdf

3 Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Policy and Planning, Women Veterans: Past Present and Future, September 2007, p.9 http://www.va.gov/womenvet/docs/WomenVet_History.pdf

4 Women Veterans In Transition: A Research Project of Business and Professional Women’s Foundation, Building Strong Programs and Policies to Support Women Veterans, 2007, p.2 http://www.bpwfoundation.org/documents/uploads/WomensVeteransinTransitionBriefII_ForDecisionMakers.pdf