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Miss or Mrs., None Of Your Business!

Posted: August 9, 2012

The other day I was talking to a male friend who is in the process of setting up a new business. While chatting with him about his potential employees, he joked about paying a certain employee less, because she was single and did not have to be paid as much as a married woman. I shot him a dirty look and we exchanged words, as friends do. But at the end of the day, I know that he was joking. The problem however is that not everyone who deals with this sort of situation is.

A woman’s marital status is still a big deal as far as her employment prospects are concerned. Last month I wrote about women in the Indian army. My post was about women getting long term commissions and combat roles, and this is a job posting, I came across while researching for the post.

Indian Army invites applications from married/unmarried male and unmarried female and also from widows of Defence Personnel for grant of Short Service Commission

woman's marital statusYou can see this online here.

So in short, married women seem to be persona non-grata.

The discrimination is not just limited to the Army though. Far from!

And it is also not just the married women who take a hit. A little more digging on Google led to this query on an HR forum

Dear All, Do we have any Law in India against Discrimination in Employment /workplace . I am aware that in the US there are many laws protecting employees against discrimination on the grounds of Gender , Age ,Race , Religion ,marital status etc . During a recent interview one of my friends was asked by the prospective employer if she was planning to get married in the near future. The profile had nothing to do with the marital status. These questions are a form of discrimination.

You can see this online here.

A friend who works as an HR recruiter in Bangalore tells me that there are many companies who choose to ignore female bachelors degree holders, in the age group of 22- 26 for entry-level positions. The unsaid implication is that these women are most likely to get married and move or quit or get pregnant and then go on leave and so might end up being a liability for the company. Men with the same qualifications and in the same age group, however face no such issues in getting recruited.

Why is a woman’s career inextricably linked to her family life?

So much so that when Forbes releases a list about the most powerful women in the world, their profiles also mention whether they are married or not and whether they have kids or not.

As long as a woman has a strong resume, why should her marital status come into play?

Anyone out there who has had to face discrimination on the basis of their marital status?

Would love to hear from you on how you dealt with it.

Pic credit: Grand Velas Riviera (Used under a Creative Commons license)

Shweta Ganesh Kumar is a Writer and Travel columnist. Her fourth book and first collection

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  1. I echo your sentiments.! Even in research it is very much an important question.! They never manage to miss the bus when it comes to poking into a woman’s personal life.!

    • Hi Rinzu,
      It is such a shame that our marital status needs to be part of the discuss even when the topic is our profession.
      As long as we’re not letting it affect our work, why even talk about it, right?

  2. Shweta, I remember such questions being asked during a job interview, and I didn’t have the guts to say none of your business (badly needed a job too!), but I remember being extremely evasive and I think my discomfort with the question was clear. Strangely, I could sense that my interviewers had a palpable sense of outrage that I would not divulge my plans!! Like, how dare you not tell us when you are planning to get married and procreate?!

    • Hi Aparna,
      I think what is outrageous is, the fact that there are so many women out there who have the exact same story to share.
      It’s almost like asking about our marital status and our need or lack thereof to procreate needs to be laid out on the table before we are deemed worthy enough of being employed!
      High time we got a law against this!

  3. While it’s easy to scream foul play, personal life does matter in jobs today. I myself have been asked about my personal life and future plans (read plans of marriage and kids) and I’ve discussed this honestly with my employers. Jobs today require high mobility and long work hours and personal life eventually affects work. And despite this logic, if one still has an issue, then please take a cue from Sudha Murthy and challenge the employer.

    • Hi Sonali,
      Thank you for sharing your point of view.
      Kudos to you for having an open discussion with your employer. Glad it worked out for you.
      But the point I am making here is that a man with the same credentials as you is not going to be asked whether he is going to get married soon or whether he plans to be a father soon. So if personal life affects work, is the woman who is the only one supposed to make sacrifices?
      And Sudha Murthy challenged a company where they had an absurd men only policy, but this was in a country where women were still pretty much confined to ‘gender-appropriate’ jobs.
      So many years on, it seems a shame that we still need to ‘challenge’ employers about our professional capabilities.

  4. yes shweta everywhr it s been observed… mayn gals r being asked abt their marriage plans even tho it s nt at all related to the profiles dy r gvn for..

    • Hi Priyanka,
      Sad to know that it is such a common practice. I believe that it is high time, we spoke up about and against it.
      Thank you for reading and commenting.

  5. Sometimes the companies are right too. I’ve seen many girls quitting their jobs post marriage (including me). I hadn’t planned to quit either. Circumstances forced me and I was not happy about that. So unless the society attitude changes that women have to relocate/ quit their jobs post marriage, companies will continue to view women as liability. I know it is unfair but from what I’ve seen “fairness” to women in India is only in color!

    • So true Jyothsna.
      How many times do we hear of a man quitting and relocating to be with his girlfriend or wife?
      Or even staying at home to look after the kids?
      I guess, we have a long wait yet for discussions on ‘fairness’ in topics other than skin colour.

  6. Dilnavaz Bamboat -

    India needs to come up with laws and, more importantly, enforce them, like the U.S. does. I went through an anti-discriminatory training at my company in the U.S. earlier this year and came away impressed by the laws and strategies that are in place to prevent gender, race and age discrimination. Which is not to say American companies are Utopian, but hell, at least they try!

    • Spot on Dilnavaz.
      At least, there is a discussion about such discrimination on many levels and at least they try.
      In India today, the topics just get dismissed or worse get an indifferent shrug, relegating it to one of the hundred other things to brush under the carpet.

  7. Some time back I was researching for some info on pirates through the ages. There have been around 10 very illustrious female pirates through the centuries, and all that I could find about them anywhere, including Wiki, was whom they married, how many kids they had, where they settled (if at all) and finally, as a thin vein amidst this, their conquests (the last was lacking for most of them!). Needless to say the info on male pirates was detailed, right down to the booty they captured on every campaign.
    This perception has been the hallmark for women across all ages, never mind your achievements outside of home!

  8. Arunima, first of all – researching on pirates is awesome! And in case you were doing it for a paper of some sort, I would love to read it.
    It’s so tragic to know that even opting to be a female pirate does not free you from the mind-numbing, “Are you married yet?”, “Why aren’t you married yet?”, “Do you have kids?”, “Why not?” and also “Why only one?”

  9. I recently got asked the same thing in an internship interview of all things. And quite politely at that: ‘Aren’t your parents pressuring you to get married?’
    I politely said no and moved on but it definitely left a bad taste.

  10. Pingback: Bosses: Male or Female? Does Gender Matter? | Women's Web: Online Community For Indian Women

  11. Marital Status indeed is a big deal till date.I was not hired by one of the prominent company despite of being the better fit due to my Single status.I was told this by Human Resources of that company that they can not risk hiring a 28 something single woman since they are looking at long term commitment for this particular position and there is no guarantee that after marriage( they assumed I will get married in another six months,how I still donot know) I would not be showing the same dedication or yeah I might not continue with the work at all.Quoting that how in past they have to face similar situations!

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