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Rice Law Office Blog

This blog reviews important legal issues including: personal injury, employee compensation, workers compensation, discrimination and wrongful termination.

Gender and Marital Status Discrimination is Alive and Well in the World of Hiring

I recently read an article on LinkedIn by a recruiter, Bruce Hurwitz, entitled "When interviewing for a job, lose the ring!"

From his bio, he is clearly a well respected leader in his field and his article caught my eye first because it touched on my areas of practice in plaintiff employment law, but it also struck me in a more personal way.  I’ve linked his article so you can read it for yourself, but for me, as a married working woman and a mom to three optimistic initiates to the workforce, it was sad to hear this kind of advice being given to people starting out, so I’d like to offer another perspective. 

You see, when I graduated from law school, this was common advice-- which I promptly ignored. Not only were we, as future female attorneys, told to take off our wedding rings for the interviewing process, but I had some friends who were actually told to start this practice well before the interviewing season, in order to avoid a ring tan line. Yes, seriously. None of our male classmates were giving this advice. In fact, I suspect if they had asked, the advice would have been to the contrary. Most likely, where gender stereotypes prevail, wearing a ring might be considered a positive thing for a young male. 

Let's face it, this advice was entirely based on prominent stereotypes about gender, marital status, and the assumed impact of these things on performance in the workplace. The assumption was engaged or married females would somehow be less committed, productive or dedicated to their job. Likewise, married male attorneys would benefit from this institution, creating greater stability and a desire to earn more to support their growing family. The assumption was that marriage meant babies, distraction and a decrease in quality and quantity of legal output when it came to women. By comparison, no one considered that fathers might choose to take time off or seek the dreaded "balance" in their work and family life. Instead, there was a bold assumption that men would work on, without distraction when and if babies came into the picture.

Back then, I took the truth of this advice for granted. I assumed that many if not most of the firms with which I interviewed, would judge me in some manner, probably to the negative, if I were to interview wearing my wedding band. (I will note, no one ever mentioned the size of the "rock" as also being intimidating to women or potentially belittling to my character even back then). While I acknowledged the fact of prejudice, I was not willing to hide my truth to avoid the consequence of it. Perhaps I was naive (I was), but despite being young and unsure of myself in many ways, I was clear about one thing; I didn't want to work for a firm that would hire me (or not hire me) on the basis of my marital status. I chose to marry, I had the right to marry (as many did not back then) and I was happy with my choice. 

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