Women Veterans, Helping Each Other Thrive

Published on
June 6, 2021
Time to read: 
Statue of Athena, warrior goddess, wearing a fancy helmet and gown, while holding a shield up against her left side and shoulder, and a spear in her right hand. Athena looks watchful and ready to fight, while also calm. The statue is white, the sky behind her is a bright turquoise blue, and the shield and spear look metallic.
Photo by Hert Niks from Pexels Thank you to Hert for taking this photo of a statue of the goddess Athena as a warrior.

Seeking out new learning opportunities is a life long habit.  On Sunday June 6, I officially joined the A.T.H.E.N.A. program run by the Audrée Dufresne and David Morrow from HRD2KILL. This program was specifically created for Canadian women veterans.

During my intake interview, I learned that in addition to participating in a weekly exercise session with the rest of my sister veterans, I’ll also be receiving 3 tailored workout plans each week as “homework” that will help me reach my goal to “be healthier” while respecting the body I have and my current range of motion.

Aubree interviewed me to find out what kinds of exercise I enjoy doing, and what I won’t do: no more jogging or running for me! She also asked me to perform a few stretching exercises so she could assess my current range of motion.

My friends, family and long-time colleagues know that I’m not a natural athlete. I enjoy moving my body. However, like many people I find it much easier to stay on track of my fitness program if I’m exercising as part of a group.

The A.T.H.E.N.A. program is totally virtual, and the other participants are all people I can relate to. We share the common bond of having served in the military. We’re all used to teamwork and for this serial of A.T.H.E.N.A. at least, we’re all of a similar age.

One of the great things about a shared military background, is that there’s a high likelihood that we’ll celebrate each other’s successes, and be understanding when one of us makes a mistake, or misses a session.

In my experience with the military, most people embraced a lessons learned framework. That is, when someone made a mistake, or if a plan didn’t turn out as expected, we reflected on what went wrong, and tried to do things differently moving forward to achieve a more positive result.

This is something I’ve seen time and time again as I connect with military members, veterans and even those who are military affiliated (part of a military or veteran family, or working as a civilian within military units). Generally speaking, we’re quick to admit when we make a mistake, and look for ways to do better moving forward.

We admit we’re human, and we are willing to help others achieve their goals. This means that when we join the civilian workforce or become an entrepreneur, we sometimes experience culture shock, as many organizational cultures are very different from what we’re used to.

I know without even having met the other participants of the A.T.H.E.N.A. program yet, that they will become part of my Friendly Forces network. It’s what most veterans do, we help each other and try to help those still in uniform as mentors or friends.

As I worked on developing the first of my paid online programs, I invested time and effort into imagining my ideal clients. I wondered, who do I know best? Who can I help the most? How can I target a specific group of ideal clients?

At about the same time as I was trying to pin down my ideal clients, I learned that there are 85,000 women veterans in Canada alone. I also learned that many veterans, and most especially women and LGBTQ veterans, find the programs readily available for all veterans to be too male dominated. Many women and LGBTQ veterans would like to participate in programs that speak to their needs, that while similar to those of male veterans, are distinctly different.

There are things that come as a particular culture shock to us that a male veteran is unlikely to experience. For example, when I became a veteran, I was appalled to learn that women and LGBTQ people can generally expect to earn 20-30% less than their cis gender male counterparts, even if they have essentially the same job, education, and experience.

I knew that I wanted to run a multi-week program, where I could help people explore and discover new ways of thinking about their work life to help them achieve their definition of success. Like I did when I became a veteran and started my own business.

Then it hit me, my ideal audience, the people I knew the best were military veterans. As a woman, my insights are likely to help other veterans who are not men. If I assume that only one sixth of women veterans are interested in pursuing a second career or starting their own business (in effect creating their own second career), then the number is just over 14,000.

The maximum course load for the first serial of “Navigating your Career Route Map: Designing Courses of Action to help you Achieve your Definition of Success” is 12. That’s less than 0.1 % of my ideal audience. Now all I have to do is find a way to reach up to 12 participants interested in investing in the program.

My next blog will be about a scholarship contest for one of those 12 spots. The contest will be shared widely on social media, with advance notice going to those who are on my email marketing list.

NOTE: Being part of my “ideal” audience is NOT a prerequisite to participating in the “Navigating your Career Route Map: Designing Courses of Action to help you Achieve your Definition of Success” program. All are welcome, as long as you follow the Rules of Engagement.