“I have spoken to people who have said they’d remove engagement or wedding rings before going into a job interview.
Has it become so bad that we perceive ourselves as having to almost lie in order not to be judged as falling into a certain stereotype? I.e. She is engaged and will therefore be married and have kids within a year so she’s not worth employing?”
In an ideal world the answer would be to wear your rings; the law is in place to protect you and make sure that you will not be discriminated against so you should have nothing to worry about.
The problem is we don’t live in an ideal world. And whilst if you did face discrimination in a job interview because your prospective employers suspected you were newly married and about to start a family you could take legal action, but first of all, you would have to know that was the reason for their decision.
Secondly, you would need to be able to prove it. Neither of which are particularly easy to do.
Even if you could prove it, the expense of a court case, in terms of finance, time and mental well-being is high and the pay-outs are low – if you take away the few big pay-outs that are awarded, you find an average of £3/4k.
So what then should you do?
If you need a job, don’t care what job is and just have to pay the mortgage now…then it might be best to leave the ring at home. You see, it’s not just that some people do not employ “women of child bearing age” (a phrase we have heard more often that we would like to admit) or those who are recently married. Although this direct discrimination is common, it is not the only thing you need to worry about; there is also the problem of inherent bias – subconsciously a lot of people think mums will take more time off, not be fully committed and generally fall short of the work a man can do. It doesn’t matter that research has found the opposite to be true and it doesn’t matter that you don’t want children; you look like you might have them and, to the under-educated, that makes you a risk not an asset.
If, on the other hand, you have a bit more choice and don’t need to take the first job that comes towards you; wear the ring . You see if you take a job with an employer who does not understand the business argument for equality and supporting working parents, it is likely that you will eventually find out about it (even if you never have children). If you do, this may be made apparent by being given lesser roles and responsibilities and possibly being made to feel unwanted if, and when, you do conceive. If you have the luxury of being able to take the risk let the employer self-select. This will enable you to find yourself an employer who “gets it”, one who knows the importance of supporting and retaining key talent – and don’t just do this because you’ll get extra maternity pay. It goes further than that – a supportive working environment is more likely to retain key people which has a positive effect on profit; meaning that this is the company more likely to be around in ten or twenty years’ time.
The changes in law mean that men can now take paternity leave so the risk is there – male or female – and with an increasing number of men becoming the main or sole carer, the point should be that the questions and assumptions are made of all or none; failing to do this is denying someone an opportunity because of their gender, not because of their family status. A company deciding to discriminate is doing so despite the fact that it is illegal; whatever your moral position, they are in the wrong.