Why I hate women only groups and why I am starting one for female veterans

A couple of years ago I was invited to the Institute of Directors in London for lunch, to discuss with them my outspoken views expressed on their LinkedIn forum about women only business events. I didn’t have time for these soirees and I don’t now. If you are in business you will be mixing and working alongside all manner of folks. Some of them will be men. It really is as simple as that. If you want to change the balance of things you really do have to be ‘in it, to win it.’ It requires modelling the behaviour you wish to see and leading with your skills and intellect.

Last week I sat down with Luke Woodley, CEO at Walnut Tree Health and Wellbeing to discuss the increase in numbers of women veterans seeking help. He is a remarkable man, and that is a whole other story, who in the early months of 2016 started, what we think was, the first Women Veterans’ group in the UK.

Through his work of helping veterans suffering from the effects of complex trauma, he recognised that female veterans needed a forum of their own. Another very specific avenue that would assist their self-directed recovery.

During our conversation it became clear that this group needs to be resurrected.

Approximately 1: 10 of all veterans are female. In recent years they have fought shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. With this equality, comes exposure to multiple combat trauma in all it’s various guises.

However, many feel that help and support has been geared towards men and that they are ‘hidden’ and therefore unseen within our community. If they do present, female veterans come forward with similar issues to their male counterparts such as isolation, depression, anxiety and PTSD. However, the causes and ramifications for their futures can be very different. Just like there are moments in our lives when we would prefer to consult a woman doctor, there are instances when female-only time will fit the bill.

Just for the record, I as a woman, fully support and defend our work with men only groups. Its all about intention and context.

That’s why I make no apology for reinstating this female only group, originally started by a man. All these women are highly capable, that has been proven by their military service. They just need a vehicle to help them find their own direction for the next part of their lives. A place to go where people understand without them having to explain first.

I see no reason why any of our veterans should settle for second best; besides more than ever our communities need these highly skilled people as active members not hidden away through grief, suffering and isolation.

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Sue Wright served in the Royal Navy and is Director, Operations Walnut Tree Health and Wellbeing , a community interest based company headquartered in Norfolk, UK