How Hiring Women Veterans Can Help Solve the Leadership Skills Shortage

Executive summary

In today’s rapidly changing marketplace, companies need to be agile, responsive, and resilient in order to remain competitive. They need strong leaders to help them adapt to new business models and help them navigate the ever-changing business environment. However, with 75 percent of business leaders stating it’s challenging to find talent with the right leadership skills and only 22 percent of Millennials aspiring to leadership positions, a growing number of organizations find themselves without sufficient leadership talent in their pipelines. Fortunately, there’s a growing pool of qualified talent with proven leadership skills. Women veterans, whose numbers are projected to reach 2.4 million by 2020, possess key leadership skills including resilience, problem-solving skills, and the ability to lead effective teams in changing, pressure-filled circumstances. By hiring former servicewomen, employers gain leaders who can immediately put their skills to work and whose passion for their jobs and community can help make employees feel more engaged and connected. In addition, hiring women veterans reduces the pressure on organizations to establish leadership development programs, giving them more time to explore their options and objectives.


Today’s marketplace is evolving rapidly due to a number of factors. Digital transformation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, automation, robotics, and other disruptive technologies are having a significant impact on how we work and live. While these advancements allow companies to streamline processes and create evermore innovative solutions, they’re also having an impact on the responsibilities of the employee and the configuration of the workforce. In addition, thanks to increased connectivity, the role of the consumer is changing. Consumers have more avenues to gather information and share their experiences than ever before. For this reason, companies are under pressure to be more transparent and provide a good customer experience. Finally, the rise of the global economy enables companies to reach customers regardless of their location. However, it also places them in competition with organizations from around the world.

It should be clear that to remain competitive, companies need to be agile, innovative, and resilient. They also need leaders who possess the right experience and qualifications to manage and lead people and businesses in this evolving business environment. Yet finding candidates with the required skills is increasingly challenging.

In this white paper, we’ll examine some of the reasons for the shortage of talent with leadership skills, examine how women veterans form a rich talent pool of qualified candidates, and discuss how employers can benefit from hiring former servicewomen.

A Lack of Leadership Skills Can Compromise Business Growth

With so many forces at play, agility, resilience, and the ability to innovate are becoming important differentiators of business success. Nevertheless, numerous companies of all sizes are still adapting or have yet to adapt their business models to the new reality. To successfully navigate this adaptation and move forward with confidence, businesses need good leaders. They need creative, emotionally intelligent talent with leadership skills such as the ability to build and lead teams; keep people engaged, motivated, and connected; and foster a culture that drives innovation and continuous advancement.[1]

Yet organizations are challenged to find talent with the right leadership skills. Seventy-five percent of hiring managers agree that it’s difficult to find new recruits with leadership skills.[2] At the same time, 44 percent of managers feel that new graduates are lacking when it comes to critical leadership abilities.[3] An important reason for this is that many organizations are recruiting Millennials. However, although Millennials are the largest group in the workforce, only 22 percent aspire to leadership as a career goal. If candidates’ career objectives lie elsewhere, it’s understandable that they’re not focused on acquiring and honing those skills that would make them strong leaders. [4]

Regardless of the reason, however, the lack of talent with either proven leadership skills or leadership potential jeopardizes companies’ immediate and future need for leaders. And sadly, a lack of talent with leadership skills can severely impact a company’s ability to be innovative and responsive to challenges and opportunities—both factors that are critical to being competitive in the changing business arena.

Women Veterans: An Army of Experienced Talent

Fortunately, there’s already a large and growing talent pool of highly qualified candidates with proven leadership skills: women veterans. Former servicewomen have experience in a wide range of sectors, from administration and IT to healthcare, legal, and logistics. In general, they’re independent, resilient, and objective-driven, with strong communication and problem-solving skills. All are trained to function as a part of a team. Many also know how to build and lead cohesive teams that produce results. In addition, they know how to stay focused, as well as how to function under stress and in challenging circumstances.

To complement these leadership skills, a large number of women veterans possess proven leadership experience in various roles. Of course, many were officers and as such, had considerable leadership responsibilities. To gain a rough idea of the number of former female officers are in the civilian workforce, consider that in 2014, 16.7 percent of the more than 240,000 officers on active duty were women.[5] It’s not surprising, therefore, that in 2013, more former servicewomen worked in management, professional, and related occupations when compared to male veterans or non-veterans (both men and women).[6]

The number of women veterans is already relatively high: 2.2 million, which amounts to approximately 10 percent of all veterans. By 2024, this number is expected to increase to 2.4 million. Clearly, former servicewomen form a large talent pool of capable candidates who can add significantly to any company’s human capital.

Business benefits

There are several important business benefits to hiring former servicewomen. First and foremost, they immediately bring a wealth of skills and experience to a company. They can assume leadership roles right away and hit the ground running. Moreover, because they’re accustomed to functioning in fast-changing, demanding environments, they’re often highly agile and resilient. This enables them to create effective teams and lead those teams through challenging situations—all while still remaining focused on the company’s objective.

Second, hiring women veterans can reduce the pressure when it comes to a company’s urgent need to establish a leadership development program in order to fill a skills gap. They already possess the qualifications required to be a strong leader, in contrast to many Millennials, who may need extensive coaching from their employers to ensure they develop the right skills. This provides companies with more time to determine what they want their leadership programs to look like and what type of candidates qualify.

Third, women veterans are not only good leaders; they’re also passionate about their goals and bring a strong sense of community to their job. These are important qualities when keeping employees motivated and engaged with their work, the company, and the greater community the company aims to serve.


Now more than ever, organizations need strong leaders to help them navigate the rapidly changing marketplace, yet the overwhelming majority of business leaders agree that recruiting talent with leadership skills is challenging. Instead of focusing purely on civilians for leadership roles, employers can benefit significantly from recruiting women veterans who have well-honed skills and proven leadership experience. Employers can leverage these candidates’ significant abilities to their competitive advantage and as a result, provide their organizations with the leaders they need to help them successfully navigate the evolving marketplace.



[1] 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends: Rewriting the rules for the digital age

[2] PWC 20th CEO Survey: 20 years inside the mind of the CEO… What’s next?



[5] Report: Employment of Women Veterans in the Federal Government

[6] Report: Women’s Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor, Issue Brief

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