Women warriors unite
Acknowledging and discussing differences between men and women can be a delicate subject in a climate of political correctness and gender ambiguity. Not so for Tara Galovski, a Ph.D and leading authority on the differences between men and women as it relates to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Galovski serves as Director of the Women’s Health Sciences Division of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD housed at the Boston Healthcare system, where she is focused on special issues of women’s health and PTSD. She also serves as an associate professor of psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine and has done extensive research in the field of gender differences in recovery from PTSD and the influences of anger, health complications and sleep impairment on recovery processes.
“Women and men are different in all kinds of ways and that is certainly true of veterans,” Galovski said. “It is difficult for anyone to transition to civilian life from the military but the experience is more profound for women.”
A key reason why relates to the fact that there are far fewer female veterans. The loss of unit cohesiveness that veterans tend to experience when exiting the service along with sensations of loneliness and isolation are amplified for women because it is difficult to connect with other women upon leaving the service, according to Galovski. And because there are fewer women they may not even be recognized as veterans. She describes situations where female veterans come to VA hospitals for service and the assumption of staff may be she is a caregiver. Another issue is some women may not regard themselves as veterans if they did not see active combat duty.
Galovski wanted to address that situation and so did Walmart, or more specifically, the Walmart Foundation. That’s why the Walmart Foundation recently gave an additional $250,000 to Boston University’s Women Veterans Network (WoVeN) that was created by Galovski 15 months ago with initial funding of $469,000 from the Walmart Foundation.
“WoVeN is designed to be a community for women veterans regardless of when they return from active military service and to help them form lasting connections with other women veterans both within their individual communities and around the country,” Galovski said. “The Walmart Foundation funded the entire development of this program from the ground up,”
The grant funds a program which works with female veterans through a series of 10-week support groups that just launched in nine cities and is aimed at improving wellness, quality of life, family and supportive connections for other women veterans. The initial cities include Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Austin, Pittsburgh, Charlotte, S.C., and Warner Robbins, Ga., and Richmond, Va. The additional funding will help expand the program to new cities and includes a training component so women who have participated in the early support groups can help establish new chapters.
The expansion comes at an opportune time because the number of women in the military has grown during the past decade and currently stands at around 15%. When those women leave the service Galovski’s vision for the coming years is to have a nationwide WoVeN infrastructure in place to provide support.
The Walmart Foundation, which has been doing work in the military space for a long time, recognized the emerging gap between the growing need and available resources and stepped up to fill the void.
“We began an intentional journey to apply a gender lens to our military programs and that is where we engaged with Boston University,” said Kathy Cox with the Walmart Foundation.
Walmart’s increased support for WoVeN is part of an overarching effort to support military causes that has long been part of the company’s DNA. Founder Sam Walton served in the Army near the end of World War II and his brother Bud was a Navy pilot who flew bombing missions in the Pacific. From those early days, Walmart had a proclivity to hire veterans and by 2008 its commitments and involvement with military initiatives had grown to the point the unique position of Senior Director of Military Programs was created and filled by former Brigadier General Gary Profit.
Profit had spent 31 years in the Army and upon retiring in 2006 joined General Dynamics. Two years later when he made the decisions to join Walmart his group of golf buddies had a predictable reaction.
“They pretty much said, ‘you are going where, to do what?’” Profit said. “(Joining Walmart) was a big change so they were surprised. I saw it as a great opportunity for me to add value and the people that hired me were very empowering.”
Less than three years after he joined Walmart, the Walmart and the Walmart Foundation in 2011 committed to spending $20 million by 2015 to support veterans and their families with assistance for programs that provide job training, transition help and education.
Then in early 2013, Walmart committed to hiring 100,000 veterans over a five year time frame and said it would hire any honorably discharged veteran. The thinking was, “if you fought for your country you shouldn’t have to fight for a job when you got home,” Profit said.
In 2014, having already spent the $20 million it committed to in 2011 a year early, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation upped the ante by committing to spend another $20 million by 2019. The funds were allocated for things like job training, education and innovative public/private community-based initiatives that address the challenges veterans, men and women, face when returning to civilian life.
By May 2015, the company realized it was on track to exceed its goal of hiring 100,000 veterans three years early so it set a new goal of hiring 250,000 veterans by the end of 2020. The figure sounded ambitious at the time, but by May of this year 200,000 veterans had been hired since the initiative was first announced in 2013.
“Our veterans bring dedication and value to our workforce, and we feel a great sense of duty to ensuring our men and women in uniform can find not just a job, but a fulfilling career, here at Walmart and beyond,” Profit said.
Profit and Walmart are keenly aware that military veterans bring desirable attributes to the organizations such as discipline, punctuality and training specifically geared toward working in teams to solve problems. In a sense, military experience is a form of basic training for a career in retail where many of the same skills are essential.
“These are really good people and we want them on our team,” Profit said.
Walmart currently employs more than 100,000 veterans throughout all areas of the organization and while not everyone sticks around the company is retaining people at a statistically significant higher level than the average employee, according to Profit.
A contributing factor to the lower turnover is Walmart’s Military Family Promise which guarantees a job at a nearby Walmart or Sam’s Club for all military personnel and military spouses employed by the company who move to a different part of the country because they or their spouse have been transferred by the U.S. military.
Looking ahead, based on the changing composition of the military, Walmart is likely to see an increasing number of female veterans enlist in its cause of helping Americans save money and live better.
“Despite the fact that women have served in the military before the founding of the republic, the story of women in military service is being written as we speak,” Profit said. “It was only in the very recent past that all specialties opened to women serving so the whole narrative is being written in real time.”
With women comprising the fastest growing segment of the veteran population, Profit said Walmart is seeing, “lots and lots of very capable young women join us.” RL