Army Officer, former Miss USA ensures "blood, sweat, and tears" will go into leading national women veterans organization

Kaylah Jackson
February 06, 2020 - 3:55 pm
Deshauna Barber, former Miss USA, now leader of Service Women's Action Network

Courtesy of Deshauna Barber

A national women’s veterans’ organization is entering 2020 with a new leader, and she’s no stranger to being the face of a brand.

Army Reserve Capt. Deshauna Barber has taken on a new role as the CEO of Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) and has high hopes to increase visibility beyond the nation’s capital.

“Oftentimes I don’t think our (women veterans) voice is propelled in a way where people have the opportunity to hear our opinions,” Barber said. “I think that as my time as CEO of SWAN, I look forward to using my voice as a way to amplify to the needs and the concerns of women service members and women veterans.”

A 2015 VA report showed that approximately 2 million women veterans exist in the nation, with women representing about 9.4 percent of the entire veteran population. SWAN has been a megaphone in the military space on advocating for female service members by vocalizing their support for legislation on Capitol Hill and offering case managers for female service members and veterans who need assistance. However, after existing for the last decade, Barber wants to take the organization to the next level and she plans to do that by using her skills gained in the service.

Army officer, former Miss USA, Deshauna Barber now leading the Service Women's Action Network
Courtesy of Deshauna Barber

Barber received her commission in 2011 and since then become the first service member to win the Miss USA Pageant and established herself as a public speaker.

“Last year I had 25 to 30 speaking engagements … What I’m taking into SWAN is the level of connections and opportunity to expand SWAN. This organization does so much for women veterans and yet I don’t know if they get the pat on the back they deserve,” Barber said.

On a national scale, the veteran service organization space is largely populated by male-dominated organizations. And while small posts of women veteran-led groups are gaining popularity on a hyperlocal level there can be challenges with funding and resources to elevate their presence.

No longer an ‘old guys’ club: How women are changing the face of veterans groups

“In comparison to the USOs and the IAVAs and the Student Veterans of America, I think that SWAN has the potential to be that large scale representation of women veteran’s needs.”

Only a few weeks into her new role, Barber plans to dive headfirst into the needs of the organization.

“I’m going to try to make sure all my blood, sweat, and tears, goes into making sure that SWAN because a household name,” Barber said.

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