Originally published on Friday, May 8, Military Spouse Appreciation Day 2020 in United States
A recent study published earlier this year concluded that women don’t promote themselves as much as men. I remember reading this study and double checking the year. Although it was a 2020 study (and a well-done one), it felt like we, as a culture, shouldn’t have been surprised by the findings.
Before my husband moved away to Coronado, CA for his next adventure with the Navy, he passed me his copy of Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield. “You should read this,” he said. “The Navy encourages us to read this for leadership lessons from the Spartan warriors. However, they’re not the only heroes in the book.”
The Spartans are known as some of the mightiest warriors in human history, capable of fending off thousands of attackers with a lean but expertly-trained team. Of course, we all learn this growing up in our history classes, and we attempt to emulate their athleticism and bravery in today’s spartan races (or at least, we did, before COVID-19).
What I hadn’t learned about the Spartans was that it was the Spartan women that held much of the responsibility for leading their community and society while their husbands were off at war. In fact, it was the women who bore the burden of raising the next generation of warriors, only to send them away without any certainty of seeing them again. And it was the women who were these same warriors’ closest confidants and advisors. “In the end it was their women who galvanized the Spartans into action,” wrote Steven Pressfield.
And on one of my visits to Coronado, as I sat at Clayton’s for my morning coffee and observed mostly military wives and children around me, I saw that, in fact, our military-family unit had not changed all that much over the last two thousand years.
However, regardless of the recent research, or perhaps because of it, there are so many reasons to be optimistic about women’s rise in the workforce. Today, on military spouse appreciation day, I’ve seen an outpouring of support for military spouses (>90% of whom are female). Like their Spartan predecessors, many have led their households while their spouses were away, putting their families before their own career ambitions. However, while women may be more cautious about promoting themselves, they are certainly strong at promoting each other. My news feeds today were overwhelmed with military wives supporting others, sharing career opportunities, celebrating successes, and supporting each other in their losses.
In today’s digital economy, which only is becoming more digitized throughout our COVID recovery, there has never been a better time for a military wife, spouse, or any other human who had previously put their careers on hold due to their location or circumstances to have access to career opportunities.
Synack’s program for military spouses that provides opportunities to engage in crowdsourced security testing, wherever you’re based, is just one of them. Every day, as the COVID pandemic’s endurance and persistence surprises us and forces us to adapt, new opportunities to work remotely and join distributed businesses emerge.
So at least based on my own anecdotal research, I am bullish about the future of women and military spouses alike. There’s much to be learned from Spartan leadership, discipline, and fervor, and luckily, the talent and strength of the Spartan women, in particular, has been passed down through the generations. The same promotion, encouragement, and advice that women often confer on their warrior husbands or their male colleagues can and is being harnessed by women themselves and applied to a growing set of opportunities in our increasingly digitized and distributed workforce. Let’s hope it’s not another two thousand years before the next research study shows progress.