The corporate world undoubtedly remains a boysí club, but executives are coming around to seeing women as intelligent and competent employees. Whether that means they actually want to hire women, however, is another story. At the end of the day, young women are still just considered potential baby-makers in the eyes of employers.
Thatís not just to say that employers view female candidates as sexual objects (although that still occurs plenty, too.) No, managers consider young women a financial liability from a maternity leave perspective. Since it costs companies money to continue paying the salary of an employee who is giving birth, theyíd rather not have to take on that cost.
While this seems like a decades-old school of thought that we should have squashed long ago,†a new study of 500 hiring managers in the UK finds that that mentality is still strong among plenty of employers. 40% of those polled said they were ďwaryĒ of hiring a woman in her childbearing years out of fear that she might get pregnant.
Though many are wary, nearly as many actually follow through with these thoughts. In fact, 33% of employers admitted they would choose a man with comparable credentials over a woman of the same age in an effort to avoid that. That resentment toward young women lingers after they give birth, too. The same percentage of bosses said that women just arenít as good at their jobs after coming back from having a baby. They believe that when women have a kid at home, they just donít commit to their career as much.
44% of the managers polled said they have legitimate worries about the expenses of maternity leave. The fact that only 33% seem to act on this concern would indicate that 11% try to follow the law despite their reservations about young women potentially becoming mothers.
While it is blatantly illegal for managers to not hire someone out of fear that they may have children down the road, the bossesí own admissions demonstrate that it is still a prevalent consideration. Since there is little external oversight into how companies make their hiring decisions, itís easy for businesses to continue to use this illegal criterion without being held accountable.
Although this particular study focused on UK businesses, that bias against young women holds true in America, as well. The United States may be one of a few developed nations that doesnít guarantee maternity leave, but even if companies donít have to pay new mothers, they still lose these employees for several weeks when they do give birth.
France just passed progressive gender equality laws that guarantee equal paternity leave to new fathers, which is being heralded as a victory for women. Obviously, itís great for men to have a chance to be able to take time off with work to be with their newborns, but in a less straightforward manner, it also protects women in the workplace. Now, companies can no longer look at women as potentially costly workers since men will be able to exercise those same rights.
Thatís all the more reason for the UK to push forward with its own potential legislation to ensure equal parental leave for male workers. If that proposal should succeed, that will give biased employers one less reason to consider young female job candidates a riskier investment than men.