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I had the privilege to speak on sourcing veteran talent at the South West and Mountain Region (SWARM) Industry Liaison Group (ILG) regional conference last week in San Antonio.  While sitting in on a subsequent panel session on upcoming changes to regulations related to affirmative action hiring programs for veterans and people with disabilities, an audience member raised the notion that the Office of Federal Contracts Compliance Programs’ (OFCCP) emphasis on hiring veterans will likely have a disparate impact on hiring women.  The thought being: most service members are male; therefore, while the idea of having goals for or extra emphasis on hiring military veterans is a noble idea, it will have the unintended effect of reducing job opportunities for women.

I took the opportunity to stand up and make a statement that I hope added some clarification to the notion that the military is “90% male”, as was claimed during the discussion.  The points I made were:

  1. 1.        Looking at the makeup of today’s generation of veterans (the “Post 9/11” era), women make up between 5-25% of the total force when looking across the services (Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps) and the components (Active, Guard and Reserve).  The number varies by service and component, with the highest percentage of women found in the Air Force and in the Reserve component, due to the nature of the types of jobs performed.  The Army and the Marine Corps and the Guard have more combat-related positions, many of which are closed to women, so their numbers are on the lower end of the scale.   For Fiscal Year 2010, the Population Representation in the Military Forces reports the number of women to be:

 

    Army Navy Air Force Marine Corps DoD Average

Active

Enlisted

12.9%

16%

19.3%

6.7%

14.1%

Officer

17.3%

16%

18.7%

6.1%

16.5%

Warrant Officer

9.2%

5%

n/a

5.5%

8.5%

Guard

Enlisted

14.5%

n/a

18.6%

n/a

17.8%1

Officer

13%

n/a

17.3%

n/a

18.9%1

Warrant Officer

9.8%

n/a

n/a

n/a

11.1%1

Reserve

Enlisted

23.2%

20.8%

25%

4.6%

17.8%1

Officer

25.2%

16.5%

25.3%

6.7%

18.9%1

Warrant Officer

14.8%

7.9%

n/a

7.7%

11.1%1

The Air Force does not have Warrant Officers and the Navy and Marine Corps do not have a Guard component

1:  DoD average total includes both Guard + Reserve

My point:  the military has more women than you think.

  1. Much has been made of the high unemployment rate of our youngest (age 18-24) Post 9/11 veterans.  Comparing the employment rate of Post 9/11 male veterans with Post 9/11 female veterans, female service members have a disproportionately lower rate of employment, with a large percentage having dropped out of the job hunt entirely.
    1. The percentage of Post 9/11 male veterans who are currently employed is 73.5%.
    2. The percentage of Post 9/11 female veterans who are currently employed is  60.3%

Some of this disparity is due to female veterans dealing with conditions that contribute to higher unemployment rates of women in general:  single parenthood, lack of adequate affordable childcare, homelessness, and physical and psychological disabilities that are not being addressed well by the Department of Veterans affairs.

My point:  Female veterans, who may be the sole provider for their families, are more likely to be unemployed and struggling with finding employment.

  1. 3.       More than 50% of the military on average is married.  The vast majority (approximately 90%) of married male service members have civilian spouses.  However, almost half the married female service members (approximately 48%) have a spouse who also serves in the military.  Typically, when those married female service members begin their families, a number of them chose to leave the service and support the career of the male service member.  So, now they are considered, and may refer to themselves as, military spouses, rather than as veterans.  I’ve written about the value of recruiting military spouses in this blog before; this should be one more reason to mine this talent group, even if you don’t get a tax credit for hiring them. 

My point:  Women veterans can be found within the ranks of military spouses, so military spouses should be a component of your overall military recruitment strategy.

So, don’t let your concern over disparate impact toward women prevent you from actively seeking to hire military veterans.  There are many women veterans to be found, they are used to working in male-dominated environments, they have tremendous leadership skills and they are looking for work!

So, what do you think?  Will the focus on hiring veterans have a disparate impact on hiring women?

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