Creating Economic Opportunity for Women Veterans with Expert Destinee Prete

What is your top Veterans-related policy concern?

While there are many issues concerning women veterans that require attention, my top policy concern specifically deals with Economic Opportunity, 34D4 [in the Drake Index].

There is hardly any research on how female veterans manage economically following their transition from the military. The Department of Labor statistics published in 2018 suggested that women veterans are more likely than male veterans to be unemployed (59% to 46% respectively). It also showed that women veterans are less likely than male veterans to work full-time.

The average duration of unemployment is nearly 29 weeks long for women veterans, which is longer than for male veterans who typically experience unemployment for about 24 weeks.”

The average duration of unemployment is nearly 29 weeks long for women veterans, which is longer than for male veterans who typically experience unemployment for about 24 weeks. Women veterans are also unemployed longer than nonveterans of either gender.

Really? Would you please share the unemployment statistics for nonveterans?

Male nonveterans are typically unemployed for about 24 weeks and women nonveterans are usually unemployed for about 23 weeks. These statistics are important because they reaffirm the need to address barriers to economic opportunity for our women veteran population.

So, what do you believe is the underlying cause of this issue?

Many of the economic challenges faced by women veterans can be traced back to their ‘military to civilian transition period’. Each female service member will eventually make the transition to veteran and what happens during this transition period is critical to their outcomes post-transition, specifically as it relates to economic opportunity. Research continues to show that female veterans are more likely to be faced with underemployment while trying to balance their job search with other competing responsibilities.

Given their unique experiences while serving in the military, we recognize that they will have distinctive needs in terms of career development and career transition.

In your expert opinion, are there gaps in research that could or should be addressed on this topic? 

Yes, there is a true lack of understanding of the multidimensional challenges that female veterans face ‘reintegrating’ back into the civilian workforce. The main reason that this exists is due to the lack of research on our female veteran population, and even more specifically, our most recent generation of women veterans (Post 9/11 Female Veterans). I am currently finishing up my dissertation entitled, The Post 9/11 Female Veteran Transition from the Military to Civilian Workforce: A Multiple Case Study. This particular demographic is projected to double over the next decade.

Generally speaking, the female veteran population is the fastest growing demographic among veterans. Female veterans are a population in need of, and deserving of, effective transitional assistance and career development.

I agree, Destinee. This issue has to be a greater policy priority among legislators at every level government. It’s the only way to ensure that the transitional period is less painful for women veterans in the future.

That’s right. More attention and research on this topic is needed. I was part of a symposium, From Warrior to Civilian: Military Veteran Identity and the Transition Process, while attending a conference in April with other industrial and organizational practitioners. During the symposium, I presented some of my practical implications to a diverse audience, including many government and military-connected leadership. One of the key points I highlighted during my presentation was that many of the challenges women veterans face stem from their transitional period and are related closely to their inaccessibility to economic opportunities following their military service.

If outcomes improve around this issue, what are some of the potential benefits to women?

Many researchers argue that women veterans are some of the civilian workforce’s largest untapped pool of potential. Despite numerous changes in women’s roles in the military, few studies have investigated the labor market experience of female service members following their military to civilian transition. Focusing more on identifying barriers and gaining a better understanding of the issue could help organizations who work alongside the women veteran population identify and mitigate some of their unique challenges in the workforce. This could lead to better training and reintegration for organizations, which can potentially impact an organization’s bottom line, and thereby impacting economic opportunity from various levels.

It could also help military organizations identify focus areas that addresses the quality of life for their active female service members. Consequently, we could glean insight into the future development of the military’s transitional assistance programs and resources for government, non-government, contractors, and non-profit organizations. With the right resources, the women veteran population could experience stronger economic outcomes post their military to civilian transition period.



Interview date: July 21, 2019

Policy Area: Veterans’ Affairs

Issue: Economic Opportunity

Expert: Destinee Prete is a PhD Candidate at Capella University. Learn more about her work at


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