Redbook recently brought five female veterans to the White House for a sit down with the First Lady to tell her what they – and thousands of other women – have experienced since leaving the military: a chronic, shocking level of under- and unemployment. Despite their dedication to the United States, their experience, and their commitment to finding work, they have struggled to gain a foothold in the civilian world. Even with years of training and service under their belts, women leaving the military today face unprecedented challenges finding work, even more so than male vets.
The story explores how tough the transition to re-enter civilian life is; why this is an issue and how we can stop it. These women are trained leaders with skills and experience but yet they can’t find work. For a little background, the recession was hard on all Americans, but it hit post-9/11 veterans – particularly women – brutally. As of July, nearly 11% of these former servicewomen were unemployed, compared to fewer than 9% of their male peers and about 7% of civilian women. These numbers have long-term consequences, such as a rapidly rising number of homeless female vets with children. These women talked to Michelle Obama about their struggles and their dreams and she’s determined to make things right for them and the thousands of women they represent.
Michelle Obama on the importance of education:
“I have been promoting education period, because that is the way the world is going. On the other hand, veterans shouldn’t have to wait for a job. So one of our biggest challenges is, how do you take so many years of on-the-ground experience and compare that with a degree that may have nothing to do with the work?”
On continuing this work after she leaves the White House:
I want to continue to lift up these stories so that the country doesn’t forget. And my hope is that whoever lives in this White House in the coming years will find a way to continue these efforts [and make them] a permanent part of the government role. We believe that efforts of Joining Forces should last far beyond this administration; that, you know the spotlight we put on these families, these issues and our services members should be something that we do forever and across party lines.”
On how she would feel if one of her daughters said they wanted to join the military:
“I would support them in whatever they chose to do and I be honored to be a proud Blue Star mom.”