Employers Can't Support Spouses If We Don't Let Them

A woman sits with her head down during a job hunt. (Stock photo)

Military spouse job seekers have a decision to make: Do we self-identify during hiring and let employers put their money where their mouths are, or do we slow our complaints that corporate America doesn't support us?

Almost 400 employers have joined a Defense Department-organized network of companies who have pledged to hire military spouses. Cities are stepping up in partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Hiring Our Heroes program to launch Military Spouse Empowerment Zones (MSEEZ) where local companies are dedicated to spouse hiring. Major corporations such as Starbucks, Amazon, Hilton and Microsoft have spearheaded spouse education and hiring programs that not only give spouses jobs, but also change corporate culture.

And yet many military spouses hesitate to raise their hands and identify as part of the community.

A new survey from Monster, Military.com's parent company, highlights the problem. The survey, conducted by Monster in late 2018, included 305 active-duty and veteran spouses as part of a larger veterans survey. It found that 45% of respondents view their status as a military spouse as a "barrier" to employment, while over half, 53%, choose not to disclose it when applying for a job.

That perception is warranted. There are few specific statistics to show that employers have historically discriminated against spouses, but there's plenty of anecdotal evidence from spouses who feel that their status has resulted in rejections.

And there are overall statistics that lend credence to that narrative. While a 2018 Hiring Our Heroes survey of 1,300 spouses showed a 16% unemployment rate, down from 23% in 2015, an astounding 70% said they feel that their education or past work experience is not fully utilized at their current job.

In short, although the unemployment rate has fallen, spouses continue to have trouble finding meaningful, long-term employment.

Increasingly, though, companies say they want to fix that. But will we give them the chance?

Military spouse job seekers have a decision to make. Do we step into the arena and let it be known that we are part of this group on the chance that employers really do want to support us, or do we stay in hiding in an attempt to protect ourselves from risk?

Perhaps it's time to strike a balance. If a company claims it wants to support military spouses, if it joins a program like MSEP or Hiring Our Heroes, or if it asks the question on its application form, give it a chance. Actively participate in organizations and networking groups, like Hiring Our Heroes' Military Spouse Professional Network

When given the chance, proudly own your military affiliation. Corporate America says it wants the chance to step up and help -- let’s give it that chance.


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