In the UK, it’s illegal for an employer to ask a potential employee about their marital status, or whether they are pregnant, during a job interview. In spite of this fact, new research compiled by Credit Angel has found that 29% of women remove their wedding or engagement rings before a job interview for fear of being discriminated against for their marital status.
The study suggests that the reason that women do this is because they don’t want a prospective employer to pass over them because they’re worried the woman will get pregnant and need to go on leave, or will let her work suffer due to the demands of her personal life.
As troubling as this news is, there are reasons for why a woman might feel compelled to slip off her ring in order to avoid the uncomfortable conversation.
The same study notes that 59 percent of employers believe women should have to disclose whether or not they are pregnant during an interview, and another 46 percent believe it’s appropriate to ask a woman if she has young children during the recruitment process.
Unfortunately, being a mother still works against women in the workplace. The study notes that a mother’s wages fall by 4 percent each year that she is absent from the workplace. Given that an average of 74 percent of their time is spent on childcare, they are four times more likely than a man to leave a job due to being “sandwich carers” (looking after both children and their elderly parents). In spite of the call for men to help around the house more, the study says that men still only spent an average of 16 hours week doing unpaid labor at home (include household tasks and childcare), versus the 26 hours put in by women.
In the U.S., the news is equally depressing, if not more so. While federal law prohibits employers from discriminating against a prospective employee on the basis of sex, it does not specifically bar questions about her marital or pregnancy status. Though the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission does state that “questions about marital status and number and ages of children….may violate Title VII if used to deny or limit employment opportunities,” that can obviously be difficult to prove.
In 2016, Bruce Hurwitz, the President and CEO of the NYC-based executive recruiting firm of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing, wrote a viral Likedin article entitled, “When Interviewing for a Job, Lose the Ring!,” detailing some advice that he gave a woman who was frustrated about not getting any job offers:
“When a man sees that ring he immediately assumes you are high maintenance. When the woman at the office who has the largest diamond on her finger, sees that ring, she will realize that if you are hired she will fall to second place and will, therefore, not like you. Lose the ring!”
Two weeks later, the woman called Hurwitz to say she had followed his advice and taken off her ring during an interview, and gotten the job. In a follow-up post, Hurwitz said that he had given the same advice to six other women, all of whom then got the job.
While Hurwitz’s article got a lot of heat, one might argue that the problem isn’t with his advice so much as with the fact that this is a thing that is actually happening.
Recruiters: before interviewing a woman, ask yourselves, “Is this a question that I would ask a man?” If the answer is no, then you are going against federal law and inherently discriminating against an employee on the basis of sex.
Women: keep fighting the good fight. You shouldn’t have to take your ring off in an interview, and you have every right to refuse to answer personal questions. And for more, non-sexist advice from hiring managers, check out 15 Answers That Will Tank Any Job Interview.
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