Untapped Diversity: Women in Print and the Military Spouse
This article was originally published on Women in Print.
A key goal of Women in Print Alliance is to advocate for the recruitment of more women to the printing industry as a means to both increase gender diversity in the workplace and address the industry’s workforce shortage. But identifying female job candidates often requires looking at non-traditional or underrepresented populations. One such population catching the eye of more and more industries is the military spouse.
According to a U.S. Department of Labor fact sheet, 92% of military spouses are women and the average age is 33 years old. They are educated: 30% have a college degree and 15% hold advanced degrees; 89% have “some college” education. Yet, military spouses participate less fully (at a rate of 53%) in the workforce than do non-military spouse counterparts (at a rate of 76%).
Part of this group’s lack of participation in the workforce is driven by factors not uncommon to non-military spouses: child care needs and shifting work/life demands for women during the pandemic. But there is one labor challenge unique to military spouses: frequent relocation. However, industries – such as printing – that are geographically diverse can help turn this negative into a potential positive.
Although one company will obviously bear the training responsibility to start a military spouse in his or her career, the industry as a whole will benefit from an enhanced skilled nationwide workforce. Printing companies tend to seek part-time, temporary, or season workers, which comports well with needs of military spouses who may not be able to commit to long-term employment. Remote jobs, such as design or sales, are also a good fit for this population.
If there was ever a time for printing companies to explore this untapped workforce population, it’s now. First Lady Jill Biden, a long-time military spouse advocate, has elevated the issue to a top-tier priority in her husband’s administration, resulting in new government resources and funding geared to increase participation rates of this subset in the labor market.
Private business and industry initiatives also abound, providing services to both job candidates and employers. Increasingly, these initiatives are scalable so that both large corporations and small businesses can participate. For instance, the U.S. Chamber’s Hire our Heroes job fairs are currently free for participating small businesses, providing they have at least one local job opening available to candidates. Hire our Heroes also provides HR resources for companies, such as best practice guides on deciphering military spouse resumes and other materials to help a company design a strategic plan to recruit this untapped labor pool. For printing companies located near major U.S. military installations, these private initiatives are definitely worth investigating.
There is also a clear shift underway in the business community’s mentality from viewing hiring military spouses (and veterans, for that matter) as an act of altruism or patriotism to one that recognizes mutual benefits for both the employee and employer. For example, recruiting military spouses can bring increased cultural awareness and sensitivity to the workplace as many have travelled internationally or may be U.S. immigrants. Military spouses are a tight-knit community that can create a natural employee referral network within a company.
There are financial advantages to hiring this population too. According to a report by CS Jones Group, LLC, not only do military spouses often qualify for government-funded federal and state job training initiatives defray employer costs, most military spouses already have medical and dental insurance through their partner’s employer and do not add to a company’s benefits cost burden. Hiring military spouses also relieves a national burden; according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Data Deep Dive: Hiring Veterans and Military Spouses (an excellent snapshot of statistics), military spouse unemployment in 2019 equaled a $1 billion societal drain.
Interestingly, you may already have one or more military spouses working at your company and not even know it as “military spouse” is not a popularly disclosed status, unlike “veteran.” If you do employ or work alongside a current military spouse, take a moment to recognize them individually and as a company for their service. National Military Spouse Day, which is designated as the Friday before Mother’s Day (May 10, 2024), is a perfect time to do so.
Lisbeth Lyons is Vice President, Government & Political Affairs, PRINTING United Alliance, the largest, most comprehensive graphic arts trade association in the country. With more than 20 years of experience representing the voice of business on Capitol Hill, Lisbeth advocates for public policies that protect and advance the economic future of the printing and packaging industry. She oversees PRINTING United Alliance’s legislative, political, and grassroots advocacy initiatives, and has served in executive leadership of multiple successful advocacy campaigns, such as Coalition for Paper Options, Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service, and Stop Tariffs on Printers & Publishers Coalition.
Prior to representing PRINTING United Alliance, Lisbeth served in similar roles at Printing Industries of America, US Telecom, and the National Federation of Independent Business. She also spent three years as a K-12 teacher in the Chicago Public Schools system, where she was on the forefront of urban education reform in the mid-1990s.
Lisbeth is Midwestern born and bred, having grown up in the St. Louis metropolitan area and attended college at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, before starting her career in Washington, DC. She holds a B.A. in English/Sociology and a professional graduate certificate from The George Washington University School of Political Management. She lives in the historic Logan Circle neighborhood of Washington, DC.
An avid leader and learner in professional development, Lisbeth was a founding member of the Government Relations Leadership Forum, and is an active participant in organizations such as Council of Manufacturing Associations, Women in Government Relations, and National Association of Business PACs, among others. Lisbeth is often a featured speaker at premier industry conferences; she has spoken to Boards of Directors, corporate executive management teams, and state and regional trade associations across the country from coast to coast.