It’s not easy being a military spouse, especially with the frequent relocations and the worry that accompanies the deployment of a service member, of course, but there are also unique employment challenges that military spouses face.
Working to unite the public and private sectors to confront these challenges, on Wednesday, June 14, the U.S. Chamber Foundation and its Hiring Our Heroes initiative hosted the Military Spouse Employment Summit. The event focused on removing barriers for dual-income military families, specifically creating job opportunities and empowering companies to recruit and retain military spouses. Speakers included Dr. Jill Biden, SBA Administrator Linda McMahon and Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway.
Former Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden delivered a keynote address, lauding military spouses and their families for their perseverance and their dedication to the United States. “Our troops make such incredible sacrifices for our country,” but “[military] spouses serve in their own way.”
Dr. Biden has seen firsthand what it means to be a military spouse. Her son Beau served in the National Guard and was activated for a deployment to Iraq in 2008, and she witnessed how the experience affected his wife and children in their everyday life. “Military spouses are patriots who carry the weight of national security every day,” she stated.
In her speech, Dr. Biden highlighted a reality many military families face: Military spouses are seven times more likely to be unemployed than their civilian counterparts, and those that are employed are likely to be underemployed with respect to their education or experience.
“It’s simply unacceptable” that military spouses face unemployment on this scale, she said, while highlighting the Biden family’s continuing efforts to push for reforms that help military spouses receive employment. She stressed the importance of not just connecting military spouses with jobs, but also enabling them to pursue careers that fit their passions and skills. Dr. Biden and her husband, former Vice President Joe Biden, continue to work with the Biden Foundation, which aims to support and empower military families and other communities in the United States.
While the unique circumstances of military spouses continue to present employment challenges, Dr. Biden advised companies to use their resources more effectively to empower communities like military families through employment opportunities.
“We need to continue to ask the right questions,” she emphasized, so that these families are heard, and above all, to “help them find the American Dream.”