“I expect high levels of excellence of both my team and myself and only look down on people when I’m offering them a hand to lift them up.”  – Dianna Flett, CEO of Girl Smarts and Speaker with Women Vets Speak

Dianna Flett

Entrepreneurs, community activists, business leaders, and inspirational role-models, our speakers are the living breathing explanation of a growing number of successful women veterans making a difference in the private sector.

But why is an explanation needed at all? Here’s why: While fewer than ten percent of Americans can claim the title “military veteran,” they are forty-five percent more likely than nonveterans to start their own businesses. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly one in ten small businesses nationwide are veteran-owned.  Of those, 383,302 were veteran women-owned in 2012.

As a stand-alone number, that 383,302 is vaguely interesting. But as a 300% increase from just five years earlier compared to the 26.8% increase of all women-owned businesses for the same time period, one must stop and take notice. Furthermore, considering that women who have gone straight from school into the workforce without military service have the advantage of time to get their businesses started, it truly is a big deal.

What is going on here?

Dr. Karen Jacobson

Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families recently conducted a study “The Business Case for Hiring a Veteran.” The study identified several characteristics that are highly sought after in the work force today and commonly exhibited by veterans, such as resilience, discipline, teamwork, motivation, flexibility, trustworthiness, and accountability.  In short, skills that are lifesaving on the battlefield are also winners in the business world. The study concluded that the leadership and strong sense of mission developed in military service are two of the highest valued business skills today.

But looking at the statistics cited above, women veterans appear to be making even greater strides than their male veteran counterparts. To shed light on the nature of the female veteran, we surveyed our own speakers, all women veterans and many business owners themselves. Our survey revealed a couple additional insights for understanding the context of female veterans flourishing:

They’ve got grit.

Everyone’s talking about “grit” these days, especially when it comes to raising resilient children. But one need look no further than females who have served in the U.S. Military to get a picture of true grit:

“…we serve/served as bravely as our male counterparts, often in jobs held exclusively by men until we arrived on site… we are not broken, we are battle tested. … we are still often ‘non-traditional’ in our approach to life as women and as former military members and we are still climbing to be the best that we can be, changing the landscape and expectations for women everywhere.”

“… we hold/ held the same jobs as the men, and we are leaders. We excel in male dominated fields and are flexible, mission-oriented, and outcomes-driven.”

Andi Phillips
Miyoko Hikiji

“The military was a laboratory where I was forced to try every day to do things a bit better, a bit more effectively, a bit faster or cheaper or with fewer people, or with greater mission success. It was also a place where we launched before we were ready, made many mistakes and were expected to learn every day. When I see a civilian leadership expert ‘discover’ a new idea, example ‘Leaders Eat Last,’ I am amused. There are very very few new ideas, just old ones that need better execution.”

They are making a unique and powerful impact post-service.

Our speakers are touching lives in positive and memorable ways in communities all across the country. This story from one of our speakers captures so well the bigger narrative of strong women veterans making a powerful difference:

“I spoke to more than 200 inner-city school children in Inglewood, CA. The hugs and tears from the students made me realize that I would be a motivational speaker. I found out that three young men enlisted in the Navy shortly after my visit because of my presentation.”

Eldonna Lewis Fernandez

And from another speaker, a similar story of positive impact:

“I’ve had hundreds of opportunities to mentor and speak to young girls and young women…One young lady came back after our bullying workshop and said she’d used one of our techniques to foil a school bully attempt to disparage her. She spoke to us all about how she shut him down. I asked, ‘Well do you think he’ll leave you alone?’ ‘Oh no,’ she said, ‘but I know what to do now.’ Giving a girl a skill to meet a challenge that she is facing – that’s empowerment.”

Through their grit, character, determination, and talent, these warriors continue to serve with distinction. And with a distinctive flair that reflects the nature of the female veteran – “We can put on velvet gloves and wield a hammer to bring home a message that is strong, forceful and makes an impact without causing the listeners to feel like what we have accomplished is impossible for them to accomplish.”

383,302 veteran women-owned businesses… Look out. If our speakers are any indication, they are just getting started.

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