When I married my military husband in 2003, a fellow Air Force spouse gave me a wedding gift– a handbook for military wives published in the 1950’s, replete with “sage advice” for a successful military marriage including gems such as “have your husband’s favorite drink and slippers waiting by the door when he comes home from a long day at work,” etc.
Since receiving that book a decade ago, my family has PCS’d (moved) four times, my child has attended 5 different schools, my husband has been deployed twice, and I have continued my marketing career at Sodexo! I have also been privileged to meet a number of military wives, particularly during my husband’s stint as commander of a B-1 squadron.
As I reflect on the many spouses, both men and women, whom I’ve met over past years, there has been a common lament. It’s not about long deployments or being far from home, but rather the inability to find rewarding employment. According a study commissioned by the Secretary of Defense (RAND Corporation 2007), military spouses are less likely to be employed than their civilian counterparts. Relocation and child rearing challenges are the two primary factors contributing to the disparity. And yet, according to RAND, “Attraction and retention of service members depends on the quality of life for the [service] members’ families, and an important element of the quality of life for military spouses is employment.”
The role of the military spouse has evolved since that handbook was published fifty years ago. Yes, we raise our children and run our households, but we also manage projects, sit on boards, fundraise—and want to work! We face exceptional challenges, but we also have exceptional qualities. We are adaptable, flexible multi-taskers with drive and determination. And studies such as RAND’s affirm that we are well educated, skilled, and diverse.
May 11th is designated Military Spouse Appreciation Day. I’d like to use this opportunity to encourage my Sodexo colleagues to begin a discussion about military spouse employment. Sodexo has the tools (such as virtual employment and flex time), the geographic footprint (8000 client sites throughout NorAm) and the vision (Quality of Daily Life Solutions) to take a leadership position in military spouse employment.
As an active member of Sodexo’s employee network group HONOR, I understand the importance of providing support, guidance and resources to employees and families connected to the military. By supporting and encouraging the recruitment of military spouses, we not only improve the quality of daily life for our military families, we contribute to the morale and welfare of our troops and ultimately create a richer, more diverse workforce at Sodexo that is reflective of the communities we serve.
Elena Victoria is the director of marketing and communications for the Sodexo Solution Center and a proud military spouse.