Breaking: Women Have, Raise Babies

Posted in Uncategorized on February 16th, 2010 by bl1y

Look out!  A partner at Eversheds had the audacity to recognize that women are generally called or volunteer to act as the primary care taker for their young children!

In an e-mail, the partner asked if there were guidelines available on how to “ask questions properly designed to identify her commitment, hours she is prepared to do, how she will balance work and a child.“  Anyone who is even aware that employment law is a practice area knows that this is a discrimination suit waiting to happen.

The question is why.  Of course we shouldn’t discriminate against someone for being a woman.  But, having a family is (generally) a matter of choice.  Shouldn’t employers be allowed to take someone’s choices into consideration?  The response is that firms will think women, who are generally primary care takers, will not put forth the same level of commitment as a male employee, and so family status will result in discrimination against women.

If it actually is true for a woman that her commitment to her family will result in less commitment to work, then this is something the firm should be allowed to take into consideration.  Any employer ought to be allowed to inquire into other commitments an employee has that will conflict with their work.  It could be a time consuming hobby, a small business they run on the side, anything.  It doesn’t matter that it’s a child, all the company really cares about is whether you’re going to be able to bill 70 hour weeks.  It’s irrational for someone to think that a primary care giver should be allowed to work fewer hours that her coworkers and not be treated differently.

But let’s also consider if it wasn’t true she would work less.  Maybe the father is the primary care taker, a full time house keeper has been hired, or they plan to cut the child’s Achilles’ tendons and leave it in Central Park, Greek pro-choice style.  Shouldn’t we want the firm to be able to ask about this?  The stereotype is that having children means women have less time to devote to their careers.  If you don’t fit the stereotype, wouldn’t you want the opportunity to inform the firm about that, instead of making them silently pass judgment?

The solution to the work/life balancing act of career women is not to pretend that women don’t have children and that they don’t devote time to raising them.  This benefits neither the employer who wants the employees that fit best, nor the mother who needs an employer with realistic expectations.  The only way to really deal with the issue is to allow open communication about it between employers and their employees.

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