Women's business group reaching out to females in military

WASHINGTON: With women playing a greater role in today?s military, a national women's business group is reaching out to female veterans, who, statistics show, are more likely to face unemployment than male troops and have a greater risk of homelessness than civilian women.

WASHINGTON: With women playing a greater role in today?s military, a national women's business group is reaching out to female veterans, who, statistics show, are more likely to face unemployment than male troops and have a greater risk of homelessness than civilian women.

Business & Professional Women/USA (BPW), a DC-based advocacy group, hopes to provide 1,500 women veterans with free one-year memberships to the group, which will provide them with access to its network of mentors, professional development programs, scholarships, and events. Founded in 1919, BPW promotes equity for women in the workplace through its 1,300 regional outposts.

BPW is working with KM Communications on the campaign, "Women Joining Forces: Closing Ranks, Opening Doors." The campaign kicked off October 20 with a DC press conference that included the two women veterans who were first to be granted memberships.

KM worked with BPW on developing media strategies for the campaign, as well as securing speakers for the press conference, said KM principal and CEO Kirk Monroe.

Between 1990 and 2000, the female veteran population increased by 33% from 1.2 million to 1.6 million, and women now represent about 7% of the total veteran population. By 2010, women veterans are expected to comprise well over 10% of the veteran population.

Female veterans, ages 25 to 34, had an unemployment rate of 8.4%, compared to a 4.7% rate among male veterans in the same age category, according to the latest US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In 2003, BPW passed an initiative to support families of female soldiers who were sent overseas to Afghanistan and Iraq. "We see this as a continuation of that," BPW communications director Sherry Saunders said. "This is an underserved segment in society. Women veterans tend not to self-identify as readily as men do and therefore don't seek out the benefits available to them."

Several reporters have told Monroe that they plan to closely monitor the services provided by BPW to determine whether the campaign helps women veterans improve their career prospects. "We'll certainly be feeding back to the media the success stories ? the new members, their plight, and their journey and job hunting," he said.

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