In the face of global market volatility, continued staring contests with the Fed awaiting “rate hike blinks” and the pervasive and unending threat of terrorism, each day we instinctively assert our opportunity to pursue the American dream. Whatever this dream means to you, be it social, professional or cultural, so many of us take the opportunity to go after it with tremendous drive and passion for achieving our goals. The quest for prosperity and opportunity (albeit not always easy and not always readily available to all) is in many ways part of our DNA; I like to think of it as our differentiator. These opportunities, successes and even the breathing room to fail, do not present themselves without the efforts of those who work on advancing, securing and collaborating on our bigger picture within and outside the United States.
Given my professional focus on corporate strategy and in the boardroom, I recently asked myself this question and now ask you to consider: Why is it that we, across many industries, don’t prioritize making room in our boardrooms and conference rooms for our Veterans whose “performance return” is our opportunity to follow these dreams every day? They call on their intellect, strategic thinking, strength and grace under pressure, without hesitation or exhaustion, and failure has consequences which are far more definitive than financial results. These individuals have spent years solving problems, managing budgets, addressing complex issues and figuring things out in their military and government careers. How is it that outside of defense, aerospace and other “easy to connect the dots” industries, we are not taking advantage of this “Veteran Asset Class” when their skills, with just a little thought and collaboration, can be transformational to our economy?
We not only want you on our walls – we need you in our halls!
I had the privilege of being invited to a breakfast on Monday hosted by Mission: Getting to Next. Mission Getting to Next (“MGTN”) is a career transition program widely recognized as the essential first step for women in leadership and senior executive positions in the private, public, not-for-profit and military sectors. Those who know me have on occasion called me a tough critic (hopefully in a good way) so this comment is neither gratuitous nor fluffy: I was blown away by these women and the MGTN program. (Yes, I realize a horrible description to use in these times and in this context but I use it purely to underscore my impression.)
So there I was in a room Monday morning listening to our Veteran women (and men) who are retired high ranking Military, National Security and Intelligence Professionals, speak of the difficulties they and other Veterans, particularly women, face in transitioning to civilian careers. While it wasn’t the first time I had heard about these issues, it was the first time I had the chance to really think about these challenges in the context of real people specifically real women. Well, real people they are and more intelligent, talented and engaging than I had ever imagined – – especially because like many Americans who support our Veterans — I had never before taken the time to imagine or get to know this exceptional group.
Well, how many of you have had the chance to have coffee and bagels with Colonels, Generals, Intelligence and National Security powerhouses? I can tell you that aside from feeling extremely safe, I was incredibly excited. While I am deeply grateful for, and respectful of, their dedication and bravery, what became so clear to me is how relevant their skills, experiences and mindsets are across countless industries.
Having spent many years in finance I can’t help but want to re-orient our thinking of this special group: An asset class that is supremely underutilized which can be characterized by a low risk high return ratio and the ability to not only pay impressive dividends but to outperform in volatile and uncertain markets. Now that’s an investment I want to make!
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Thanks to Sharon Egilinsky for giving us permission to share this article. The opinions and experiences expressed by the author or subjects do not necessarily reflect those of Women in the Boardroom.