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Striving for Equity in Service and Military Transition: From the viewpoint of a Women Veteran


Recently, there has been an increased focus on the experiences and contributions of women in the military. Both on social media (obviously with The V Word), the media itself and in government.


We are making noise and this generating much needed attention for real change. This also, of course, is creating a space for challenge, which will happen throughout any drive for positive social change. Challenge is good though, like any good educator and coach would say… it facilitates growth!


The best way to manage any challenge is through learning. Therefore it’s vital that we continue to speak up, share our individual perspectives and be collaborative in our approach to educating others in the requirement for equity.


 

As more women are sharing their experiences about service from various branches of the armed forces and stages of the transition /reintegration process, it has become clear that our journey’s are not simply about achieving equality, but about striving for equity. There are a multitude of reasons behind this pursuit and here’s our two penneth:

  1. Embracing the Unique Experiences

As women veterans we are beginning to recognise, celebrate and share our unique experiences (#Visible #WeSeeYou). We are starting to finally acknowledge our own service, our own needs and in turn identify publicly, that our journey often differs from that of our male counterparts. This is due to a variety of factors such as physical requirements, differing roles and expectations, medical needs and social dynamics, both within military life and veteran life. Striving for equity, alongside equality, allows us to embrace our distinct perspectives and in turn work towards a more inclusive and understanding environment, that not only values our needs and contributions but respects and supports them. 2. Recognising Intersectionality: Equity acknowledges that not all service people have the same experiences or face the same challenges. Veterans come from diverse backgrounds and may face additional hurdles based on factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, neurodivergency or disability. By focusing on equity rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, we are seeking to address these intersecting identities and create a more inclusive space where ALL veteran voices are heard. 3. Transitioning with Success: The journey of military transition can be complex and challenging for BOTH men and women. However, women veterans often encounter specific obstacles that require attention and support. These challenges include topics such as:

  • Pregnancy

  • Birth

  • Prenatal and Postnatal care

  • Menopause

  • Securing employment opportunities that match our skills and qualifications - which can also encompass additional challenges if upon exit you then take on the role of military spouse

  • Overcoming biases or stereotypes - not only those associated with women in general but those also associated with veterans

  • Negotiating male dominated workplaces

  • Navigating the transition process while often balancing family responsibilities - that research has evidenced generally tend to include greater levels of caregiving responsibilities

It also currently includes a distinct lack of services and resources available specifically for women veterans regarding physical and mental health. Striving for equity both in service and in military transition means recognising and addressing these unique barriers to ensure women veterans have the same opportunities for success as our male counterparts. It is genuinely NOT to be divisive or ask for ‘special treatment’. We do not want special treatment, we aren't special, we are strong capable service people and veterans that happen to be women and this means that we do have differing needs from our male counterparts, of course we do, its #fact! Therefore, these needs to be addressed in the interest of true acknowledgement of diversity, equality, inclusion and equity. Ultimately it's is about understanding that the demographics of military personnel and veterans has changed and that this needs to be taken into consideration when providing services, support and care. 4. Fostering Supportive Communities/Networks: Equity in service and military transition also involves fostering supportive communities/networks that not only empower women veterans but serve as inspiration to others. (Hello The V Word! If your not in it please join #ShamelessPlug). Communities like The V Word provide friendship, mentorship, professional guidance, and a sense of camaraderie among women veterans who have shared similar experiences. It also provides a platform for future generations to see women achieving, striving and thriving in the armed forces. The reason behind creating gender specific communities relates to the gender specific needs of women veterans - for instance we all know how a lot of blokes feel when we mention periods or menopause! However, even if our male colleagues do feel comfortable discussing such subjects with us, they can’t actually relate. Adopting a strengths-based* approach to social change and actively working towards equity, will enable us to establish a truly supportive infrastructure that will empower womens continued success both in and out of military service. 5. Advancing the Broader Conversation: Finally, last but by no means least, the pursuit for equity in service and military transition contributes to a much broader conversation about gender equality and diversity within the UK armed forces. We ALL should work to serve as advocates for change, raising awareness about the importance of representation, inclusivity, and the unique needs of ALL service members. By highlighting these issues, we promote a more comprehensive dialogue, one that benefits the entire military community and ensures that the UK really is the best place to be for Veterans. Point is, the issues raised CAN be rectified, what we are asking for is NOT insurmountable, we just need to stand together and use our strengths and skills to create sustainable and impactful action. Women veterans are currently on an exciting journey to achieve equity in service and military transition. We are out here doing it, highlighting the unique challenges we face and embracing our diverse experiences. We are pushing for social change… for equity, seeking to create an inclusive environment that not only recognises and celebrates our contributions but supports our successful transition and fosters an overall culture of equality and understanding. Together, we can work towards a future where women veterans are safe, valued, empowered and become part of the 'norm' in every aspect of military life and veteran life #NormaliseTheNorm. Thus securing a stronger, more positive and truly equitable pathway for future service women. A pathway that we would all be truly comfortable watching our daughters, granddaughters, sisters and friends march down. (Is this another #BraBurningMoment? lol).

 

*Strengths-based approaches are based on the belief that everyone and ALL communities have skills and strengths, and that change is more likely and more sustainable when we focus on these strengths and possibilities. Previous article: Facing the challenges: When women leave the military and head into the workforce Prev


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