Stop Discriminating Against Military Spouses!

I am just going to launch right in: military spouses are extremely discriminated against in the workforce.

This topic is very near and dear to my heart: as an army wife of almost 5 years, I have experienced my fair share of military-related job struggles. Employers are afraid to hire military spouses because they know we aren’t going to be around forever. As soon as hiring managers put 2 and 2 together and realize they are interviewing a military wife, they shut down – I have experienced this firsthand.

When I first got married and moved across the country, I thought I would be able to find a job quickly. I had three degrees under my belt, extensive work experience, glowing references, and was willing to work for cheap. I had several standing jobs offers with great companies back home, and figured it would be a cinch to find one in my new town. Oh, how wrong I was.

I started off working in a restaurant just to avoid gaps in my resume, and I sent out dozens and dozens of resumes and applications to different companies. Most of them called me for an initial interview…but as soon as I (naively) mentioned my husband was a soldier, it was game over. It wasn’t until a couple months later that I finally understood why: I was in an interview and mentioned I had moved to town because I married someone stationed at the local base. The manager I was speaking with said (almost verbatim): “Oh, honey. We don’t hire military spouses here. We need people who are going to stick around for a while, and most of the other businesses are the same way. You will have better luck applying for something on base.”

That was pretty shocking to me to hear because I had been under the impression it was illegal to discriminate against someone based on who they were married to. But I was still grateful she told me, and she actually took time to explain to me how hard it was going to be to get a job. Employers in military towns actively check for military affiliation, so even if I lied my way through an interview and none of my references brought it up – chances are the hiring manager would find out anyway. She told me I needed to lower my expectations and look for jobs that didn’t care about longevity. Ouch.

Turns out she was right. I started applying for entry-level jobs that I was way overqualified for, and finally got hired for administration at a construction company. It was discouraging – I had more education and business experience than my boss’s boss, and it was so hard seeing my old friends and college classmates go on to exciting, fulfilling, high paying careers while I was stuck answering phones and filing paperwork.

But I was still one of the lucky military spouses because I had a full-time job. Only 39% of military spouses actively looking for work actually end up in full-time jobs. Another 14% end up in part-time jobs. Which leaves a 47% unemployment rate amongst spouses actually looking for work. If you counted all the spouses who gave up, that rate would be even worse.

In military circles, we are dealing with unemployment rates that are almost twice as high as during the peak of the Great Depression. And it isn’t because of economic collapse or global war or a lack of jobs – it’s because business leaders refuse to give us a chance.

Military spouses are fantastic assets: if you don’t believe me, here is a list of reasons why. Yeah, we move every few years…but be honest. How many of your employees are really going to work for you for decades and decades? If you hire a spouse, you will get a loyal, hardworking, talented employee for as long as they are in the area. And if you are able to offer remote employment (and let’s be honest, in this day and age you need to provide remote to attract and retain top talent), you might actually get an employee for decades.

So how about it? Could you please stop discriminating against military spouses and give us a chance? Pretty please? Even if the overwhelming evidence of the benefits is completely lost on you, at least do it for the sake of supporting the troops. You can’t actually support the troops while actively discriminating against their families. If you want to prove you appreciate the sacrifices these brave men and women make on a daily basis, maybe try offering jobs to their hardworking and talented spouses. Believe it or not, it will work out in your favor – I’m not asking you to throw money down the drain. Just give it a try, I promise having a spouse onboard will be a good thing.

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