With our armed forces undergoing transformation (more than a million service members will transition off active duty over the next five years) one fact remains constant -- healthy families make for healthy, and satisfied, service members.
A key contributor to families' overall satisfaction with their military lifestyle is for spouses to have access to work that is meaningful and which allows them to contribute to their family's overall financial health. Many men and women in the service depend on income from spousal employment for their families. So it's concerning that research continues to show military spouses have lower wages and work fewer hours than comparable civilians.
Military spouses face many of the same career challenges as civilians, including finding affordable childcare and job progression in their chosen fields. But they face additional obstacles specific to the military lifestyle, including frequent relocation, requiring them to continually face those challenges anew.
Additionally, some employers view employing military spouses negatively, thinking they are temporary or unreliable given their increased likelihood of moving. A recent White House report showed that more than 15 percent of military spouses moved across state lines annually from 2007 through 2012, compared with 1.1 percent of civilian spouses. However, Millennials are also a mobile population and more likely to change jobs several times during their careers. Firms who don't adjust to the changing needs of the labor market are bound to lose out on some very talented human capital. Worse yet, they will lose them to a competitor. That's just bad business.
Military spouse unemployment is three times the national average. The Blue Star Families' 2013 Military Family Lifestyle Survey showed that 68 percent of military spouses believed being a military spouse negatively impacts their careers, and 58 percent felt they had not gotten a job or had been treated differently in the workplace because of their status.
There is good news, though. Under the Obama administration's Joining Forces initiative, 35 states have passed legislation in order to better support military spouses serving in professions that require state license and certification requirement. And, some innovative partnerships and programming have developed over the past few years, including the Department of Defense's Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP), the 100,000 Jobs Mission, and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) and Inc. Magazine's military specific resources and mentoring programming.
Companies that create welcoming environments for veterans and military spouses will maintain a competitive advantage in our global market. Those who recruit, retain and advance military-affiliated employees will benefit from their esprit de corps, integrity, innovation and commitment to a cause greater than themselves.
Military spouses have something called grit, and it's invaluable in the labor force. You can teach someone how to operate a computer program, or format a presentation; but you can't teach them to care about what they're doing, thinking of what they do as a way to change the world. Military spouses understand that service and sacrifice go hand-in-hand with citizenship. They know small actions have big consequences. They facilitate, they adapt and they thrive. They are leaders.
Military spouses don't sign on any dotted lines or deploy in defense of our country, but they serve just the same. Their experiences help develop them into the strong, competent, thoughtful, resourceful, engaging people who make up our military community.
So, you want to support your troops and your bottom line? Hire a military spouse.