wedding band ban: why women don’t want to appear married at work
The interview had been taking its predicted turns. What were my strongest attributes? What did I think needed a bit more work? Where did I see myself professionally in five years? I gave all the expected answers: ‘I really want to learn and take this opportunity to grow within the company… I genuinely feel this is the right step for me to progress and develop relationships with the clientele into the future.’
While I was prepared to have to churn out some “résumé speak”, I was completely unprepared to have to answer this carefully phrased question about my marital status: ‘And so you have told us what you want to do professionally, but what about personally – what are you personal goals for the next five years?’
Initially I was confused. Surely they weren’t asking for more information regarding my growth and journey, and it couldn’t be an enquiry into my fitness goals, which would see me finally be flexible enough to re-join a public yoga class.
I asked for some clarification. My interviewer paused and became quite coy.
‘Well you know… you are married; you and your husband must have some plans in the future yes?’
It didn’t take long for me to click that “plans” meant baby plans. I found myself feeling very uneasy. The fiery feminist law graduate in me wanted to pluck up the courage and call her on it, get her to ask directly the question that she was so carefully dancing around. My prospective employer was asking whether I had any plans to get pregnant. Not only is such question downright rude, it is also illegal.
Under the Sex Discrimination Act it is illegal to discriminate against any person based upon their gender or sexuality. This extends to discrimination against women because they are, or are thought to be, pregnant, or they look pregnant. It is also unlawful to discriminate against someone because they have the potential to become pregnant.
Clearly my potential employer was checking in to see whether I planned on being a baby-maker any time soon. I was completely taken aback. Was this really happening? I can’t remember my response but needless to say I made no reference to my uterus.
While this sort of question may have been rife when society considered that married women weren’t meant to be in the workforce, I had hoped that such attitudes had changed over time. Apparently not.
A friend of mine experienced something similar going for a job interview. Her interviewer was much more blatant though and just straight up asked, ‘Do you have plans for children any time soon?’ She evaded the question and decided that regardless of the outcome, she did not want to work in such an environment anyway and so decided not to proceed with her application.
She also decided not to wear her wedding ring to any more interviews.
While furious, I must admit my experience got me thinking about whether I would have been asked the same question if I had been cagier about my private life. Recently married, I happily refer to my husband in conversation. Did this highlight myself as a mum in waiting? Was my wedding band indicative of my fertility, like some sort of motherhood mood ring?
Unfortunately this pressure to hide marital status is being felt by more and more women, despite the advances being made in sexual discrimination law. A recent study published in the UK revealed that one in three women will not wear their wedding ring to work, for fear that it will ‘damage their employment prospects’.
Interestingly (and perhaps more horribly) the report states that 55 per cent of those who admitted to not wearing their ring due to career prospects claimed their interviewer or employer was a woman. Sadly this demonstrates the prejudices still held across many demographics of our society towards married women and the limitations placed upon them. Whilst legislative advances such as the Sex Discrimination Act have made some notable headway, it is clear that there is still some significant ground to cover to ensure that all persons are free from discrimination.
Would you wear your wedding band to a job interview? Have you ever been openly discriminated against in a job interview or in the workplace because of your marital status? Tell us below!