A tweet from first daughter and presidential adviser Ivanka Trump put a 139 character public spotlight this week on military spouse employment and the corresponding wage gap.
Our 710,000 active duty military spouses face a wage deficit of 38% compared to civilian peers. We must support our non-uniformed heroes 🇺🇸— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) July 17, 2017
Calling spouses "non-uniformed heroes," the tweet, as of this writing, has received over 2,800 retweets and over 1,700 replies.
Many of the responses are not at all about military spouse employment. But some of them do comment on the issue, and many of them focus on an extension of the spouse employment subject: total household income. Those commenters used the tweet to discuss the plight of military families who rely on food stamp benefits, officially known as SNAP. Always a hot button issue, the White House has proposed large SNAP cuts, and a House lawmaker recently refused a rule waiver that would've allowed debate on a proposal to change how military income is calculated in SNAP applications.
When it comes to employment, military spouses know the struggles of starting, maintaining and growing a career while married to a service member. They know that unless you can telecommute, you're probably leaving your job every few years to move. If you have your own business, it's likely suffering the pressures of relocation and, especially if you have kids, the stress of deployments and all the extra tasks that come from holding down the home front solo. If you do telework, you better hope your boss and your career trajectory are flexible and allow for the sudden interruptions military life can bring.
All of those challenges equal that wage gap Trump highlighted in her tweet. The statistic she quoted comes from a landmark study on military spouse employment challenges issued by the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) in 2014. And it's not just a wage gap or an uphill battle to be employed. About 90 percent of those who took that survey reported that they are underemployed.
It's unclear how a tweet from the first daughter, who has made female employment issues one of her focuses, will change the spouse employment landscape. But publicity for the problem is certainly not a bad thing.