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Connecting women veterans through mentorship

Transition from a career in the military to civilian life can be difficult. In Canada, women veterans have fewer gender-specific resources available than male veterans.

From left to right: Stéphanie Bélanger, Co-Scientific Director of the Canadian Institute for Military Veterans Health Research; Stéfanie von Hlatky, Director of the Centre for International and Defence Policy (CIDP); and Meaghan Shoemaker, PhD student with the CIDP have collaborated to create an engaging workshop for Canadian women veterans.
From left to right: Stéphanie Bélanger, Co-Scientific Director of the Canadian Institute for Military Veterans Health Research; Stéfanie von Hlatky, Director of the Centre for International and Defence Policy (CIDP); and Meaghan Shoemaker, PhD student with the CIDP have collaborated to create an engaging workshop for Canadian women veterans.

“The veteran population has changed a lot with the increase of women in the military. We have to adapt our policies and programs to reflect changing demographics in the Canadian veteran population,” says Stéfanie von Hlatky, Director of the Centre for International and Defence Policy (CIDP). “There’s a community of female veterans that is sometimes forgotten in the provision of veteran services. What we wanted to see is how the female veteran experience differs from men in order to create a mentorship program which is tailored to women who are transitioning from military to civilian life.”

The Gender Dimension of Veteran Re-integration Workshop, spearheaded by Meaghan Shoemaker, PhD student and head of the Gender Lab in the CIDP with support from Dr. von Hlatky, aims to address that gap in May 2018.

Dr. von Hlatky and Ms. Shoemaker coordinated the pilot workshop last year to connect women veterans beginning their transition into civilian life with resources, job skills, and mentors. They received funding from the Department of National Defence and work with veteran groups to coordinate resources and spread the word about the workshop. They’re also working closely with the Canadian Institute for Military Veteran Health Research, located at Queen’s, to connect with provincial and national partners.

“There are a lot of personal and professional challenges that these women can face when transitioning, including issues such as family dynamics and care responsibilities, transitioning military skills to private sector jobs, and discriminatory hiring, to name a few,” says Ms. Shoemaker. “Creating programs like ours, which is breaking new ground in gender-based analysis in the military, is important to do now, to accommodate more female veterans in the future.”

The upcoming workshop will last two days; one day focused on emerging academic research on gender-based analysis in the military, and the second focused on workforce training, personal development sessions, and mentor pairing for women veterans.

Ms. Shoemaker hopes to double the number of participants in the mentorship portion this year over last year’s pilot workshop. Both mentors and mentees will share their struggles, successes, and tips for handling the challenges of transitioning from military life.

Both Dr. von Hlatky and Ms. Shoemaker want the workshop to continue as a yearly event, and spread to more cities across the country so that they can connect more women veterans together.

If you or someone you know would be interested in participating as a mentor or mentee for the women's veteran mentorship program, please contact Ms. Shoemaker at ERACIDP@gmail.com

To learn more about the upcoming workshop, visit the CIDP event page.