The Man for the Job

08 October 2011
Bidding farewell to DH, who was off for a job interview, he asked if I had any tips. "Mention you have a wife and baby", I told him, "It makes you look good".

It sure does - if you're a man. Sexism is still alive and well in Australia, at least in the field of recruitment. A married man with young children is seen as responsible, caring, unlikely to quit in a hurry or goof off as he keeps a roof over his family's head. A married woman with small kids? Forget it, obviously the job won't be her main focus. She'll need to leave early, won't do overtime, take lots of time off cause her kids are sick, and will probably resign soon to have another baby anyway.

Late last year, in a fit of despair over the state of the world, or at least thinking I was too damn sensitive for this youth work business, I made a brief and unsuccessful attempt to get back into advertising. Now, it could be that I'd been out of the industry for over a year, or that I don't interview particularly well. But I can't shake the feeling that at least part of the reason for my failure was due to being a married woman in my thirties. "Great skill set", I was told more than once in the sorry-but conversations post interview, "but we just don't think you'd fit into the team". Probably true; I put in a good effort at the office, but come quitting time I like to head home, not keep up with the work-hard play-hard twenty something AEs hitting the bars with the boss and clients. But dammit, I was good at advertising if not socialising, and it would have been nice to be given the chance to try. The stereotype is way off the mark in our family, anyway - our hope is that I will work full time whilst DH assumes most of the care of Baby G.

There's ageism as well as sexism going on, and it's pretty much impossible to legislate against. One anecdotal tale proves nothing of course, although recruiters I've spoken to agree these stereotypes of family roles are definitely a factor in hiring women over a certain age, that certain age being about 28 (there's no statistics on it though - really, who'd admit to it in a quantifiable fashion?). I've abandoned a corporate career and moved into the not-for-profit sector, where this is much less of a problem. I recently read in the SMH female readers' tales from the 1970s of being unable to withdraw the money they had earned from their own bank accounts, or access a tubal ligation, without their husbands' permission, and thought thank god we don't live in those days. But we really haven't come as far as one would hope.


  1. Very true. I've been relegated to the slow lane at work after going part time last year, despite having the most experience. It doesn't help that I'm the only married woman with a young child in the office.

  2. The Mommy track... No promotion possible. And a lot of places don't even have that.


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