#FeministMondays | Why Does A Woman’s Marital Status Or Her Plans For Motherhood Affect Her Rise At Work?

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A little over 2 years ago when I was about to be promoted, the one tasked with informing me about it asked me a question.

 

Do you have any plans?

 

What’s special about this question you ask? Well, look at the question again and you’ll know.

 

Do you have any plans of getting pregnant in the near future because we don’t want to waste a promotion on a woman going the family way? If you are planning to be pregnant, we rather give it to the man in the team.

 

Yes, this was what the question stood for and I was asked this at least 5 times by one person during that period. In the midst of work conversations and during coffee breaks too. Even though I was also asked if I’ll be able to handle the ‘work’ that comes with the position, ‘manage’ the team and other ‘pertinent questions’, this one was something that seemed to be the most important.

 

Would I get pregnant and ruin another man’s chance of rising up the ladder?

 

Of course, at that time I had no plans and I said no. But now when I understand the prejudice women face at the workplace better, I really wish I had given a better reply. You know something like it’s none of your business. But I didn’t so that’s that.

 

A few months after that I did get pregnant but I worked all through my pregnancy, until the day my water broke. I was as committed to my job pregnant as I would have been otherwise.

 

Now let’s look at the questions asked to my husband before he was promoted. Oh, but there were none. He wasn’t asked anything either with respect to his work or his plans of becoming a father.

 

Truth is, and a 2011 McKinsey report will corroborate that, men are promoted based on potential while women are promoted based on past accomplishments. Sheryl Sandberg also mentions this in her book Lean In. But that’s not the point I want to make here even if that’s an important point. The point is why is it okay to ask such personal questions to a woman?

 

During interviews before being hired or meetings before being promoted, why does a woman’s marital status or her plans for motherhood become a deciding factor? By all means, judge us based on our qualifications and past work experience but why poke your noses in our personal lives?

 

During interviews before being hired, why does a woman's marital status or her plans for motherhood… Click To Tweet

 

If women would not be able to manage work and home after becoming mothers then there would hardly be any working women left beyond a certain age. But that’s not the case, is it? News flash: Women are better multitaskers and maternity leave is not a vacation. So, frankly, those questions just show the interviewer in poor light.

 

In meetings before being promoted, why does a woman's marital status or her plans for motherhood… Click To Tweet

 

Some may justify it as appropriate because you are investing in a resource. But I beg to differ. If you are worried about long-term commitment from the woman, ask her that. Tell her this job or role requires a long term commitment and if she is willing to give that.  But then you still can’t be sure of the answer she gives just as you can’t be sure if the male employee you hire instead of her won’t die of a heart attack in the middle of an important project? Apart from it being invasive, inappropriate and prejudiced, it is ridiculously juvenile to ask really.

 

So next time you interview a woman for a position, don’t ask her if she is married. Don’t ask her if she has children. Don’t ask her if she plans to have children. Don’t ask her of she takes birth control pills. Don’t unless you ask male candidates questions like – Do you have plans of becoming a father? Do you intend to impregnate your wife? Yes, because he might be affected by his wife’s pregnancy or a newborn child just as much as a woman might.

 

A person who fills a position should be competent and capable. Evaluate a candidate based on that. Don’t cross those lines which you have socially been conditioned to, knowingly or unknowingly. It is unacceptable, discriminatory and akin to women being penalised for having the ability to be pregnant or choosing to be so.

 

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This post is part of the #FeministMondays series (previously called #IAmAFeminist series) on the blog. Inspired by a TEDx talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – We Should All Be Feminists, I intend to talk about the need for feminism through my posts, posts on my experience and observation as a female. I intend to talk about issues concerning women.

Join me and let’s work towards a world of gender parity. Remember, each voice counts. Tell me your story.

 

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Linking to #mg hosted by Mackenzie Glanville
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#MicroBlogMondays

 

14 thoughts on “#FeministMondays | Why Does A Woman’s Marital Status Or Her Plans For Motherhood Affect Her Rise At Work?

  1. I completely get what you are saying. It is maddening. I hate it when such personal questions are tossed at a woman. It is like she is being crucified for being a woman. I wonder how long we will have to fight this battle till we begin to see this change. And mindsets in society, they are terrible as well. Incidentally, I wrote on women and workload today as well. I will hashtag my post #FeministMondays as well.

  2. I completely get what you are saying. It is maddening. I hate it when such personal questions are tossed at a woman. It is like she is being crucified for being a woman. I wonder how long we will have to fight this battle till we begin to see this change. And mindsets in society, they are terrible as well. Incidentally, I wrote on women and workload today as well. I will hashtag my post #FeministMondays.

  3. ‘Men are promoted on potential whilst women are promoted on past accomplishments’….. such a schism and a great divide between what is and equality. I like to think it’s changing, but it’s ever-so-slow and excruciatingly frustrating at times.

  4. Here in the US, that question could get the interviewer fired – if anyone complained to HR. That’s a big if, as many candidates and employees still prefer not to complain or make waves. Many won’t see through to the obvious implications, and will think it’s just friendly chit-chat or interest in their future plans. But discrimination is discrimination. They don’t get to ask about age, either. I tend to be pretty up-front about these things, but it’s inappropriate for them to ask even if it’s impossible not to extrapolate from my resume. How could I have gained some of the experience I’ve gained, if I were only 20? I could also say that I worked full time, carried 9-12 hours a semester in law school, and had a baby – simultaneously. I’m not sure whether it’s the words “law school” or sheer awe at the thought of doing all that that derails the whole, “Do you have plans?” thing, but I’ve been fortunate to work for good companies and great people throughout my career and the raising of two children. Which, by the way, is a TEAM effort. I don’t think men ARE always exempt – I recall, years ago, one of my colleagues worrying he was being “mommy-tracked” because he always put his attending his kids’ school and sporting events over late conference calls and work travel. A lot of the men feel that pressure, too, and want to be involved parents. They get it.

  5. I more than agree. It is sad how common and accepted such questions are! You’re right when you say this is just too personal. I remember my sis-in-law’s company was considering layoffs and she was told to leave while one of her lesser qualified colleagues was retained because travelling is easier for men. Of course it wasn’t said in so many words but how very unfair is that. It is these perceptions that we need to get rid of. God alone knows how long it will take.

  6. It’s very annoying when interviewer says ask these questions. Are you married. Do you have children. Do you plan to. None of their business, really. Why don’t they understand that if any of these would create a problem for the woman, she wouldn’t be sitting in the interviewee’s chair?!

  7. It’s infuriating even reading about these instances, Nabanita! I didn’t have to go through it when I worked ( then it was a completely different kind of question thrown at me as to “why I didn’t have kids”!)
    However, all said and done, nobody has any right or business to ask you about your personal life at your place of work. The person’s competency and efficiency matters more than anything else!

  8. So true… It just deosnt stop with pregnancy. I went for an interview when my younger one was 8 months old. The first question they asked my was how many choldren i had. And then next was followed by , if I could manage two kids and a job/…. The attitude didnt go down well with me, and I refused the job offer!!!

  9. When I was just engaged and looking out for a new project within the same company, many many interviewers asked me this question. I was just engaged for God’s sake and people were asking me if I was planning on having a baby anytime soon. I was disgusted. I said no, but when the project offer came to me I said no too. It is so sad that a woman’s worth or her dedication to a project is determined based on if she’s planning to get pregnant or not.

    The current project I’m working on has no gender inequality. I earn as much as the men do here and nobody has asked me any such questions. I’ve been promoted often and me being a woman has had nothing to do with it. Nobody has asked me my pregnancy plans as well. I guess I’m very lucky to be here.
    Soumya recently posted…Of Love & TogethernessMy Profile

  10. Hmm, I remember when I got engaged, I was told by colleagues to not reveal it too soon as it would jeopardize my role/options. I was new to the workforce and rather naive and did not understand why should I not share my happy status with people I worked with. Well, I understood it very soon. So sad that the conditions haven’t changed and women have to deal with such unfair attitude despite being competent and capable. Sigh!
    Uma recently posted…Bhutan: River-rafting at Punakha and an unforgettable trek at ParoMy Profile

  11. Sad to know that, but like Soumya said, I know some of my friends who are placed really well in their respective firms and they have never been asked such questions; even earning really well. Guess the change is happening and I’m glad it is.
    Anmol Rawat recently posted…The Boy Who Loved – Book ReviewMy Profile

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