When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. âI was studying at the University of Denver and he was at the Air Force Academy,â she says. “My dad also went to University of Denver and warned me not to date those Springs flyboys.”
âHe didn’t say anything about marrying either of them,â she said. And that’s how her life as a military wife began.
Life brings real benefits, like opportunities to live abroad – his family must have lived all over the United States, Japan, and Germany – but it also comes with drawbacks, like having to upgrade your career. spouse before your own goals.
“Although we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those haven’t gone away.”
Professional aspirations become more difficult to achieve and progress is accompanied by many starts and stops. After personally experiencing these unique challenges, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.
Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she couldn’t progress – not until they returned to the Washington area. âEighteen months later, many rejections later, it became clear that this was going to be more difficult than I could imagine,â she says.
Eighteen months are halfway through a typical assignment, and by this time most spouses are looking for their next assignment. “If I couldn’t find a job in my own ‘hometown’ with multiple degrees and a great network, it wouldn’t bode well for other military spouses,” she said.
She is not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partner, which means they are often away from family and other support networks. When they find a job, they often earn less than their civilian counterparts – and they are more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.
Before the pandemic, unemployment among military spouses was 22%. Since the pandemic, it is expected to reach 35%.
Sue eventually found a job with a military-focused nonprofit organization, which helped her gain the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouses program. She wrote a book and started saving enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.
“I founded the NMSN to help spouses of professional military personnel develop flexible careers that they could pursue from any location.”
âOver the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, writing annual white papers, and organizing national and local advocacy to address issues of greatest concern to the community. spouses of professional military personnel, âshe said.
Not only was NMSN’s mission important to Sue on a personal level, but she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.
âGone are the days when families could thrive on just one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to do it, âshe said.
“When less than one percent of our population serves in the military,” she continues, “we must be able not only to recruit the best and the brightest, but also to retain them.”
“We lose as a nation when the military leaves the force because their spouse is unable to find a job. We see it as a national security issue.”
“The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to reignite the discussion and keep in mind the challenges affecting military spouses. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House,” she continues. “I am so proud of the fact that business, government and the general public are increasingly addressing the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the barriers to employment that they have faced unfairly.”
“We collectively made other people care about them and in doing so, we elevated the problems of military spousal unemployment to a national and global level,” she adds. âIn the process, we also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spousal employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront. “
Not only did NMSN become a sought-after leader in military spousal employment, but Sue also saw her dream career come true. She was recently invited to participate in the public relaunch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr Jill Biden.
She also saw two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation this year alone. She was the first in the Air Force community to demonstrate leadership using the power of social media to reach both their Airmen and their military families.
This is why Sue is one of the âAutonomous Womenâ by Tory Burch This year. The $ 5,000 donation will go to The Madeira School, a school Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, âthe lessons I learned there as a student have gone. almost set the tone for my personal and professional life. so meaningful to know that the donation will be used to make education in Madeira more accessible to those who may not have the means to afford it and to offer them an opportunity to change their lives. “
Most military children will move one to three times during high school, so having four years of continuous high school experience can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue traveled to Madeira and found herself “in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women we needed to have a voice and defend not only for ourselves, but for those around us “.
To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy’s Empowered Women program, visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Name an inspiring woman in your community today!
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