Today morning I came across a news in which actor Ann Hathway revealed that when she was 16, a journalist asked her whether she was a good girl or a bad girl. What would be your response to that? Hard to say right? But have such questions ever been asked to a man? Have men been asked about their character before starting a job or during an interview?
Just yesterday I was having a conversation with a friend about sexism during interviews. He talked about a friend who was asked questions about pregnancy, marriage and husband’s promotion. She is a well-qualified woman with degrees in engineering and MBA. And still, marriage and motherhood get to decide whether she is eligible for the company or not. I am sure she is not alone in this. Many women have come across such questions in interviews.
For example, cricketer Mithali Raj was once asked who is her favourite male cricketer. Then Rihanna was asked whether she had a man in her life. There are several instances which depict the sexist mindset of society. It clearly shows that people judge men and women differently. Men are judged for their abilities and women are judged for their gender. Men are appreciated for their success and a woman’s success is measured along the lines of her future plans.
Here are a few sexist questions that women are commonly asked during interviews:
What are your marriage plans?
Whenever a woman applies for a new job, she is asked whether she is going to marry anytime soon. This is because it is assumed that women leave their jobs once they get married. People assume that after ">marriage, the husband is responsible for her financial needs and so the woman will no longer have to earn.
But dear employers, marriage has nothing to do with a woman’s choice to work. Whether married or not, a woman is free to work and earn financial independence.
It is a sexist assumption that after marriage women won’t be allowed to work. It just normalises the idea that marital families do not allow their daughters-in-law to go out.
Are you pregnant or planning to get any time soon?
Many women have across this question. And you know why? Because companies are not ready to bear maternity leaves as it might affect their growth. Most of the time female employees are replaced or demoted after they come back from maternity leave. And this is unfair and a reflection of the sexist work culture.
Maternity leave is a woman’s right. She has a different biology, and hence different needs. You can’t just fire or reject women because they will demand maternity leave. It is the right of every working woman. So just accept it and change your mindset rather than asking women to walk out.
Would you take menstrual leaves?
This is not common yet but I believe it will be. As the need for menstrual leave is increasing, companies might translate this as a reason why women employees should not be hired.
But dear employers, menstruation is a biological function. We, women, know how hard it is to function during our menstruation. Stop judging us and try to be empathetic. One or two days of leave per month for menstruation are not excuses. It is a valid reason as much as sick leave is. If you can provide sick leaves, you can afford menstrual leaves too.
4. Are you comfortable with night shifts?
Many working women lose jobs and opportunities just because offices have night shifts. This is often considered as the fault of women and hence used to deprioritise them over men.
But dear society, women can work during the night shifts but it is the lack of safety in society that makes it difficult for them. So stop considering this as a fault of women and start making proper arrangements for the safety of women employees who work during the night shifts.
5. Can you handle motherhood and a job together?
Many working mothers come across this question. Having a child is considered a roadblock in consistency at work only for women. Men are never asked whether they will be able to manage their child and a job together. It is assumed that working men have wives at home taking care of their children.
But dear employers, stop assuming that taking care of the child is the mother's responsibility alone. Even if women have kids to take care of, this doesn't become a reason to not hire them. Rather offices should implement policies and arrangements for the comfort of working mothers.
But how long will society undermine women because of their gender? When will it understand that just as men have families and future plans that do not affect their careers, women too have? When will we understand that women can value their work over everything else? When will we understand that a women’s personal life has nothing to do with her professional life?
Yes, women’s issues like pregnancy and menstruation require special attention. Menstrual leave and maternity breaks are necessary for a working woman. But that doesn’t mean they are less capable than men. These requirements are their rights being the ones who carry babies. It just shows that women are biologically different. Rather than comparing women employees with men, the work culture needs to change. People need to stop making working a male-dominated space. Work culture should be inclusive of the needs and comfort of people from every gender.
Views expressed are the author's own.