Libby Coffin

Celebrating Military Spouses

Libby Coffin steps up to help us better design work for today’s military spouses

This article is the first in a series to profile UTC employees who are military spouses, whose families serve our nation’s military as well as UTC. Their contributions to UTC are especially meaningful in light of the company’s announcement that it is participating in the U.S. Department of Defense Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP). Through that initiative, UTC joins other firms that are committing to recruit, hire, promote and retain military spouses for portable careers.

To learn more, visit UTC’s Military Spouse Employment Partnership page.

As the company’s vice president for global tax policy, Libby Coffin is used to advocating for UTC and its bottom line.

What she’s learning to get used to now is advocating for what’s in the best interest of a special category of UTC employee that she, herself, once belonged to – military spouse.

“I was a military spouse for seven years with a husband in the U.S. Air Force,” she says. “I hadn’t thought much about that experience until I heard UTC was committing to the MSEP program. Suddenly, memories of the problems I confronted launching my law career during that time came flooding back.

“So, not only was it natural for me to raise my hand to help UTC’s MSEP effort – I wanted to jump into the deep end. I wanted to make certain our employees appreciate the challenges faced by military spouses seeking to enter the workplace.”

Military spouses must surmount a host of unique employment hurdles, Libby says. Among the more daunting – the frequent relocations brought about by military reassignments. Finding a job is tough enough. That task seems overwhelming, she says, if your profession requires you to meet state-specific requirements.

“I recall facing the prospect of taking multiple state bar exams and complying with different states’ continuing education guidelines,” she notes. “That’s expensive, and even if you accomplish that, you still must consider which aspects of your work will travel easily across state lines.”

Another concern for military spouses is underemployment. Many military spouses hold degrees, Libby says, “but often the only work available in their new location is child care or retail sales,” she says. “That’s discouraging, and it disrupts that person from building a career in their field of choice.”

Libby believes building awareness within UTC to the issues faced by military spouses will be a solid first step in the company’s partnership with the Department of Defense. “I’m confident by becoming more knowledgeable about the difficulties military spouses encounter, and more committed to addressing those difficulties, we’ll attract, retain and promote more military spouses,” she says. “That’s important, because the unemployment rate of military spouses is four times the national average.”

She believes the program’s next evolution should see UTC refining its commitment to flexible work arrangements to where the jobs it designs for military spouses are so portable, those employees can stay with UTC even when their spouse gets reassigned across the country.

The good news, Libby says, is that UTC offers an excellent environment for military spouses to pursue fulfilling employment.

“We are a large, modern company with numerous locations and work opportunities in a lot of different fields,” she says. “That’s appealing to the military spouses wanting not just to find a job, but to further their career. In addition, those workers can expect to interact daily with a wealth of co-workers who possess deep technical expertise they are willing to share.”

Times have changed considerably since Libby was a military spouse fresh out of law school. Her husband is now a civilian and finding fulfilling work is no longer a challenge for her.

“That phase of my life has ended,” she says, “but I’m now a military mom with a son in the U.S. Marine Corps. I’m seeing first-hand that military-spouse employment challenges persist.

“My hope is that, by using our heads and hearts, UTC can meaningfully assist the recruitment, hiring and promotion of military spouses. It’s a great way to retain talent and foster respect for our troops.”

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