Why are female veterans’ underutilizing veteran and military service organizations?
It is no secret among today’s military veterans and military/veterans service organizations (MSOs/VSOs) that Post 9/11 veterans, particularly women, are far less involved in social organizations after leaving the service.
In 2017, the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) set out to understand why this may be happening, and Dr. David L. Albright worked with several other researchers to analyze data from more than 800 interviews.
A needs assessment was conducted by SWAN examining historically low levels of social cohesion among women veterans, and then the research team analyzed data for its statistical and practical significance.
The intent of this research was to provide guidance about how best to develop organizational programming around the needs of military women. Secondary analysis of 2016 SWAN needs assessment survey data involved mixed-methods analysis of open- and closed-ended questions related to VSO/MSO participation and included frequency tables, geospatial analysis, multiple logistic regression analysis with educational achievement, race/ethnicity, service branch, and service era predicting participation.
The study found that three primary VSOs/MSOs the women were involved in were: The American Legion (32%), Disabled American Veterans (28%), and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (28%). The majority of women who participated in the study were from Wisconsin and Maryland.
Statistical significance was not found for predictor variables of service branch or service era, although greater proportions of respondents were Army (30.4%) and Post-9/11 (27.6%). Qualitative analyses indicated that the majority of women did not feel welcome in existing service member and veteran groups (25.23%). They identified this as one reason they were not currently members of these types of organizations (29.75%).
The findings offer important feedback for organizations hoping to reach women veterans, the fastest-growing veteran population.
Recommendations for increasing participation include targeted programming, women-only offerings, available childcare at some events, tailored messaging with outreach initiatives and peer support efforts.
Read the full study on ResearchGate.net.
Dr. David L. Albright, Ph.D., is a military veteran, author, and social work researcher. Throughout his career, he has focused his work on producing research and insights useful for international healthcare policymakers, academic institutions, and private organizations as they work to address and improve health-related determinants and outcomes among underserved communities. Dr. Albright is co-author of Bulletproofing the Psyche: Preventing Mental Health Problems in Our Military and Veterans.