Soapbox Time – Gender Discrimination is Real

I am still amazed at stories I hear about women not being hired because they have kids. A writer friend of mine who has decided to return to the workforce posted this on Facebook today:

Advice I have learned over the past year of job hunting: stay at home parents, never be honest that you were a stay at home parent. I was turned down for three jobs because of basically this. I know it because I wanted to be honest! And open! And on my third interviews, I was saying, “I am so good at juggling lots of things at once because of my SAHP skills!” and they were like, “Will you really be dedicated? You have kids! We have other applicants who don’t have kids.” Now when I go on an interview, I won’t even admit to having friends. “I’m a workaholic virgin with an ant farm I keep for company, but with no ants, because their care gets in the way of my work,” is the line I’m going with.

In case you’ve forgotten, potential employers aren’t supposed to ask about children, about child-rearing plans, about the potential of future children, or whether you plan to have children, or any permutation of that. They can ask about attendance requirements, or physical ability to meet the job requirements, but not about children at home, or spouses, or anything too personal.

So those of you who think we’re past gender discrimination in this country, we’re not, and this makes me very sad. Meanwhile, in other news, I also ran across this article in the New York Times, “Why US Women are Leaving Jobs Behind.” Reasons cited in the article, in addition to a soft economy, are lack of flexibility on the part of employers, and lack of inexpensive childcare options. Most other developed countries have a year of family leave available, a good bit of which is paid.

We’re the worst. Corporate profits are at an all-time high, and yet we still struggle to provide basic benefits to our employees. Such basic amenities as a private location for pumping breast milk are unavailable for most moms, who end up weaning early because pumping breast milk isn’t an option.

I stayed at home with our two children from September 2001 until September 2004, and it took me a while to find a professional position that would be worth it with the cost of two in childcare. Now I’m blessed to have an employer who provides generous annual and sick leave, including up to ten days per year of family sick leave. That means if one of the kids has strep throat, I can stay home and make sure they get proper fluids and rest without worrying about my job. Yes, I’m in a professional position, and I can do some work from home, but it gives me incredible peace of mind knowing my boss understands and works with me when life happens.

What are your thoughts? How can we get more women to return to work?

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