Thought 1: Her Career
“What does your husband think about you getting this job and moving to a new city?”
I could not believe it!
A voice whispered in my ears the date, “12 October 2018”. I still could not believe it but my phone calendar confirmed it, it was a Friday and yes the year was 2018.
Her response took me back into the conversation. “We have agreed with my husband to contribute to the family together. If moving places will allow me to contribute financially he is at peace with it and it will not be the first time that I have had to move” I thought it would end there but more questions followed and five minutes later my colleague asked if I had a question. I said no. No that I did not have any, I had many, too many questions, so much anger too, but I needed this nightmare to end and with the power vested in me I said no and thanked the interviewee for coming. I also wished her the best, offered her more water and a few other mumbled words of embarrassment.
I guess it was my way of apologising. There was no need for her to be asked those questions in the first place, she needn’t have answered. In retrospect, I should have intervened and asked her not to answer the question. She was the 4th candidate for that position, the 7th interviewee on that day and the only woman who had made it to this stage of interviewing. Only two candidates would not need to move if they got the job but the rest would need to move 700km away to start a new job. The four married male candidates who had come before her had not been asked the same question.
With her footsteps fading away into the yard I quickly asked why she had been asked the question. What followed were responses that shocked my very human conscience. Before their responses, I had no idea that if a man did not want his wife to move an employer could deny her a job. No one had ever told me that the husband’s relatives had a say in the job that his wife could take on. It had never occurred to me that if a husband fell ill his relatives would expect the wife to resign and take care of him. They were being cautious employers, ensuring that no husbands or their relatives would make dramatic appearances in the workplace in the future. She had to pay for other men and their relative’s poor emotional intelligence notwithstanding the fact that there are many men who maintain their jobs despite being married to dramatic women who cause scenes in the workplaces.
So shocking and yet enlighting were their responses that I just had to have a talk about the rights of women in the workplace at that minute. The bottom line is women have a right to work when and where they want as much as men have the same right. Their decision to exercise that right is not subject to anyone else but them. Women cannot be denied their right to work due to marital status and the responsibilities that marriage comes with. Their private life is their responsibility and when and if it interferes with their work it must be dealt with separately. When employers base their selection criteria on marital status they are perpetuating gender-based discrimination in the workplace. As women we should be aware of this and should we experience it, be bold enough to call it out.
As I write I am thankful that when I had to choose to work away from my family my decision was not questioned by my employer. It was my responsibility to have a conversation with my partner about the imminent move because I respect our relationship however my decision would not have been changed if my partner had not been able to support my career advancement.
I am a career woman and intend to excel as much as my male counterparts. Supportive partners do not see this as a threat but are always making sure that as they climb their corporate ladder they are not the only ones making it to the top. How couples make this work is entirely up to them and should never be the business of family and friends.
Her career is important!