Vice President of Education and Labor Advocacy, Government Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
May 25, 2023
Each month Women Taking the Lead highlights a female leader within the U.S. Chamber membership to showcase how women are currently leading in all areas of the business community. In recognition of Military Spouse Appreciation Month, we had a conversation with Lacey Raymond, Principal in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Government & Public Services (GPS) practice, and co-chair of the U.S. Chamber Foundation's Hiring our Heroes' Military Spouse Employment Advisory Council.
Q: Deloitte has been a tremendous help in working with the U.S. Chamber’s Hiring Our Heroes (HOH) program, which connects the military community—service members, military spouses, and veterans—with American businesses to create economic opportunity and a strong and diversified workforce. Can you tell me more about the company and the decision to support HOH?
A: Deloitte ranks among the world’s leading professional services organizations in audit, advisory, tax, and consulting services across more than 20 industries. Our breadth, depth, and scale, combined with our passion for business innovation, create powerful opportunities to help our clients stay ahead of change, deliver impact that matters, and transform disruption into lasting value. Deloitte is dedicated to helping clients and people excel, but above all else, it is a purpose-led and mission-driven organization. Because of that, we create alliances and business relationships with like-minded organizations—enter in our long-standing and rich connection with Hiring our Heroes. Deloitte’s collaboration with HoH spans nearly a decade, initially focused on providing pro-bono professional services in support of veteran transition and employment. Over the years, we’ve evolved our relationship through facilitating transition courses for veterans and more recently, onboarding military spouse fellows.
Q: What is your role at Deloitte and what led you to be interested in HOH?
A: I am a principal within Deloitte Consulting and within the Government and Public Services practice, principally delivering strategic transformations for our Department of Defense clients. Deloitte’s relationship with Hiring our Heroes significantly precedes my own, but when I joined the firm and discovered the strength of our shared resolve to make a difference in the military community, I jumped at the opportunity to get involved. I’ve attended and participated in their military spouse employment summits, contributed to some publications and data initiatives, and have spent time with the veteran and military spouse fellows we host at the firm. Most recently, I was appointed co-chair of HoH Military Spouse Employment Advisory Committee. It’s an energizing way to spend my time outside of client work, to say the least.
Q: Members of our military are often the first to be recognized, which is why May 12—Military Spouse Appreciation Day—is so important. As a military spouse, you also sacrifice a lot. So, first, thank you and your whole family for that. On top of everything else you do in your career and at home, though, as you mentioned, you also recently stepped up to co-chair HOH’s Military Spouse Employment Advisory Council. Congratulations! Can you share more about the council and what you hope to accomplish in your new leadership role?
A: I’ll be the first to admit that my journey as a military spouse has been shorter and more seamless compared to many others. We have two moves under our belt—a third underway in a few short weeks—where we will remain on the east coast and be significantly closer to family. I defer all recognition to the military spouses who’ve made the sacrifices that warrant military spouse employment worthy of a national conversation.
The Military Spouse Employment Advisory Council (MSEAC) is one of the first of its kind to convene private and public sector entities that are committed to hiring military spouses. The Council, which meets quarterly, is a diverse group of representatives from businesses across the country that are invested in military spouse hiring. The MSEAC concentrates on connecting spouses to national and local employers of every size and industry through targeted community engagement and sharing best business practices.
When I got the call a few months back asking if I would consider being co-chair, I couldn’t refuse. Flattery doesn’t even begin to cover it. The impact MSEAC has had on the military community is remarkable, but we now find ourselves at an inflection point. Financial security and career stability is top of mind for military families, and at the macro level, is a strategic imperative for military readiness. By creating economic opportunities at scale for a highly educated, credentialed and experienced talent pool such as military spouses, we strengthen the foundation of what makes our force all-volunteer. But we need to connect the supply of career-ready spouses more directly with industry. In this new role, I would like to not only see a commitment from additional employers across private, public and non-profit sectors, but the actual conversion of spouses into careers that align with their skills, qualifications, and needs of businesses.
Q: When it comes to business and the workforce, what opportunities for military spouses are you most excited about?
A: Military spouse employment has largely hovered at around 22%, unchanged for as long as the Department of Defense has been measuring it – about two decades. I think about the shift towards skills-based hiring, trends around accelerating technology, and the principles of Future of Work (think adoption of AI in the workplace, expansion of virtual positions, etc.) bearing out across industries—the fusion of these conditions are a catalyst for military spouses to seize the opportunity to start, restart, redefine and catapult their careers. The economic tailwinds given these evolutions and shifts are stronger now than ever—this statistic must change for the better.
Q: How can women support other women in their organizations and in the military spouse community?
A: One of my favorite quotes is from the indomitable, late Madeleine Albright: “There's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other.” Gone are the days where women should feel the need to compete with one another or throw sharp elbows. And for those few who still do, there’s certainly no place for them in our community.
Specifically, we have to be shameless and tireless about forging an easier path for those who are beside us and those who follow us. Find ways to share, showcase, and celebrate the successes of women around you. Be open and honest about the things you would’ve done differently had you had the opportunity. As I like to say, we can only be venerable if we’re vulnerable. Because the reality is, we are simply better as a nation and as a society when women are at the helm and working together – whether in a corporate c-suite, the head of a Family Readiness Group or a pastor, teacher, or however a military spouse self-identifies. The idea that all military spouses want the same things out of life is one of the most confounding stereotypes today.
Q: What is your biggest inspiration?
A: The two leading men in my life—my husband, Eddie, and our two-year-old son, Paul. My husband’s love of country somehow rivals his love for our family—his love for each is extraordinary, and exponentially larger combined. He’s proof that love isn’t a fixed commodity. And our son, Paul, is simply a marvel—he’s a perfect combination of our best qualities. And he’s a stark reminder that work is something we do and not what defines us. He keeps us grounded and goofy. He’s about to experience his first move as a military kiddo, and we are excited for our adventures ahead as a family of three.
Q: What’s something – work related or not – that you learned this past month?
A: My husband and I recently went to New Orleans and visited the National WWII Museum—by far the healthiest thing we did there. But in all seriousness, the experience was extremely sobering, frustrating, inspiring, and impressive all at the same time. One of the exhibits featured that really resonated with me was the so-called, arsenal of democracy—demonstrating that quite literally all of American economic power was channeled towards supporting the war. For example, the president ordered the halting of manufacturing civilian cars to repurpose production lines to generate machinery for the military. That scenario is somewhat unimaginable today.
What struck me most acutely was the significance and scale of the role of women in every aspect of the war effort. More than six million women took wartime jobs in factories, three million volunteered with the Red Cross, and over 200,000 served in the military. But when the war ended, while the majority of women wanted to keep their jobs and their new-found economic and social independence, nearly all were laid off when the demand for war materials decreased and millions of men returned home from military service seeking jobs. Subsequently, the years immediately following World War II saw a resurgence of women taking on more traditional roles as wives and mothers.
And as we fast-forward to the present, even in the midst of how far we’ve come with women fortified in their careers and a growing proportion in executive roles, this history of WWII reminds us how tenuous these trendlines are. Simply put, our work is far from finished.
About the authors
Allison L. Dembeck is vice president of education and labor advocacy in the Government Affairs Division at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, focusing on education, labor, and workforce development issues.