I came across this collection of stories from women who were asked what was the first time they felt discriminated against because of their gender. While I can definitely relate to most of the stories, I realized that I can’t actually remember the very first time I felt like that. I was a tomboy child, raised by a father who did not care about gender norms and a mother who was forced to accept my nature very early on. I am also half Roman and half New Yorker, which makes me a 100% grade A smart ass, resulting in raised eyebrows and biting retorts to anyone who blundered into gender-based discriminatory behavior in my presence, rather than an internalized brooding on my part, making me forget these encounters rather than feeling them change how I view the world.
There is one story, however, which I do want to comment on, as it touches on something that grates on me deeply.
Lots of small thing happen in life. But there comes a moment which hits you real hard and makes you wonder would this have happened If I was a guy? And trust me every girl has such one moment. Here’s mine…
After the interviewer had finished with the technical part of the interview, the following dialogue took place:
Interviewer : Your resume impressed us, so did you.
And then suddenly, out of nowhere,
Interviewer : “How long have you been married?”
Me: “3 years”
Interviewer : “Kids?”
Me : “Not yet.”
Interviewer : “Are you pregnant?”
Interviewer: How old is your husband?
Me( where is it going): 32
At this point, I feel like I am answering a doctor.
Interviewer: Where is he working? Is his job permanent?
Me : (answered)
Interviewer : ” So you would be planning to have kids soon?”
Me ( Not knowing what to say) : “Depends. I have not thought about that now.”
This was the moment which made me think. If I was a guy, these questions would have never been raised.
No. If you were a man, this question would definitely not have been raised, and it is unacceptable that it was.
I have had discussions with people about whether or not it is OK to ask personal stuff in professional interviews. Those in favor of it often come from a place of naivete, many of them are women, saying that they would be genuinely curious about how a professional woman balances her home life with her career. While you might find yourself curious and wish to enter into such a conversation with a friend or a close coworker, bringing that shit up in an interview is just not O.K.
That interviewer was not just getting weirdly personal with her. He was trying to suss out whether or not she would be taking maternity leave. When an interviewer asks you about your family life, women of the world, 9 times out of 10 it’s because they’re trying to figure out whether or not you will be taking time off work in the near future.
This is why feminists should make fighting for paternity leave a major priority. Not just the nominal paternity leave that many countries have, which few men feel comfortable taking full advantage of, but real paternity leave. I have been told, at a Women in Science conference, that Scandinavian countries have less gender disparity in science than is seen in most European countries, and that one of the reasons is probably because they insist heavily that men take their full paternity leave when they have a child. Pushing for a culture in which the responsibilities of raising children are an equal burden across a couple is something that is sorely needed, if women truly want equality in the workplace. This idea that men don’t have to think about these kinds of things, that women should automatically assume that they will have to do 100% of the babycare and if their husband does 5% of the diaper changes she should be grateful at having married such a helpful man, that is bullshit. We need a culture in which employers know that both the men and the women they will hire will take time off work if they have kids, and not just assume that only women will.
I’m not trying to vilify stay at home mothers, or stay at home fathers for that matter. Agreements within a couple are nobody’s business. However, it should be an agreement, not an automatic assumption that always relegates the woman to a household role. And all of this is definitely, definitely not a potential employer’s business. If the interview gets that personal, see the red flag waving in your face and act accordingly.