One in every seven Virginia veterans is a woman — the highest percentage of any state in America. There are more than 105,000 women veterans in the state and that number continues to grow as more women transition from active duty into the civilian world and workforce.
Recognizing that the number of women veterans is growing, and that they may face different obstacles to post-military success than do their male counterparts, Virginia established a dedicated Women Veterans Program in the Virginia Department of Veterans Services in 2017.
Beverly VanTull is the program manager for the DVS Virginia Women Veterans Program. Having served 15 years in the U.S. Army, VanTull is passionate about helping her fellow women veterans make a successful transition from active duty to civilian life.
“Women veterans are often not as visible as male veterans,” she said. “I am amazed at how often even co-workers and neighbors don’t realize that the woman in the next office or next door proudly served their country in uniform. One of the goals of our Virginia Women Veterans Program is to change that.”
In 2018, the Virginia General Assembly designated the third week of March as Women Veterans Week in Virginia to bring attention to the contributions of women who served and continue to serve in our armed forces.
Gov. Ralph Northam kicked off Virginia Women Veterans Week 2019 with a special ceremony.
“Throughout the history of our commonwealth and our country, during times of war and in peace, women have served bravely and selflessly, and I am proud to help recognize their profound contributions,” Northam said at the ceremony. “Women veterans return to the civilian world as leaders in business, government, education, medicine, and in their communities. As a fellow veteran, I have served alongside many courageous women, and as governor, I am focused on doing everything we can to support the increasing numbers of women veterans in Virginia.”
DVS joined with Del. Kathleen Murphy, D-Fairfax, a member of the Board of Veterans Services, to host a series of “Women Veterans Roundtables” around the state. These small group sessions give women veterans the opportunity to express their concerns and highlight issues that are of importance to them.
“The topics raised at these roundtables help guide DVS in planning the program for the annual Virginia Women Veterans Summit,” VanTull said.
The annual Virginia Women Veterans Summit is a free two-day event designed to connect women veterans to employers, government programs and services and each other. The 2019 summit, held in Hampton in May , attracted more than 800 women veterans, speakers and sponsors. The theme was “Empowering Women Veterans” and included a variety of forums and panel discussions on topics ranging from managing finances, families and relationships, fitness and health, educational and job opportunities, and even fashion tips as service members trade in their uniforms for civilian attire for the corporate world.
A highlight of this year’s event was a “Shark Tank”-style pitch competition in which entrepreneurs competed for cash grants for their startup businesses.
“The summits give women veterans the opportunity to meet and network with other women veterans from throughout Virginia and other states,” VanTull said, adding that planning is already underway for the 2020 summit set for June 17-18 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center.
“We are already lining up nationally renowned speakers and are expecting attendance to continue to grow. Our goal is for Virginia to continue to be the best state in America for veterans, and we will continue to lead the way in empowering our women veterans to achieve success in transitioning from the military to life in the civilian world.”