Should HR departments ask women about their plans to start a family?

(223 Posts)
Vickimumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 06-Mar-13 16:39:06

Sheryl Sandbery COO of Facebook has recently said, “Employers should be allowed to ask women about plans for children … Every HR department tells you not to do that but we need to have a much more open conversation.” This has got the Family Friendly team at Mumsnet wondering what you think. Would it make for easier career planning for women and a more open discussion between women at work and employers or would it be a massive backwards step? Have you ever wanted to talk to a potential employer about your long term plans or ask about their maternity package? Have you ever been asked and felt that your answer has had a negative impact on your employability? We'd love to know.

WyrdMother Wed 06-Mar-13 16:43:14

Are we going to ask men too?

UseHerName Wed 06-Mar-13 16:44:20

very good Wyrd wink I like your style!

AThingInYourLife Wed 06-Mar-13 16:50:41

Problems that immediately spring to mind

1 people will lie.

2 will an employer be entitled to penalise you if you get pregnant when you indicated you weren't planning to? If not, what is the point?

3 Many families don't go according to plan. The idea that women have 100% control over when they have children is a (pernicious) myth.

4 Unless you are asking men too, then I'll be taking a gender discrimination case. And winning it.

SuffolkNWhat Wed 06-Mar-13 16:52:44

Unless men are asked too then it's incredibly discriminatory, especially will new shared parental leave.

Also couples may decide to TTC and then face problems conceiving. If I had been asked I'd've said yes a year ago. We've only just conceived.

"Would it make for easier career planning for women and a more open discussion between women at work and employers" Hell no - what if you explain that you want a family but then can't have one, what if you find you're having twins and your plans change?

The only two people I know who've asked about childare / flexible working at interview have both been dads; judging by the responses they got back from the interview panels, employers are not wholly geared up to have these conversations just yet.

minsmum Wed 06-Mar-13 17:04:28

If they also ask do you plan to adopt, have you elderly parents, do you plan to win the lottery etc.
If they tell women what the long term plans for the company and the womens jobs are with regards to employment, promotion and pay rises are..

If they then ask every man and every women of all ages all the questions.

Plus whether they are meeting the equal pay for work of equal value criteiria and what their plans are to remedy it if not

No problem

Vickimumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 07-Mar-13 09:20:27

Interesting that she specifically said 'ask women' .... just went back to the report and checked! I guess she is thinking that it's about helping women to plan their career (she says being sisterly to another woman who basically has expressed a view I'm struggling with smile )

AThingInYourLife Thu 07-Mar-13 09:25:27

Helping women plan their career my fat arse grin

That is the kind of doublespeak HR people come out with though.

She might even believe it.

BlueyDragon Thu 07-Mar-13 09:31:04

Open conversations, yes. Women only, no. And discriminating on the basis of the answer, no. So based on that train of thought, why would you ever need to ask it at an interview? Hire the best person for the job THEN have the conversations that enable you as the employer and employee to get the most out of the relationship. Obviously you have to be sensitive to personal dynamics when having these conversations too, as many people wouldn't want, for lots of reasons, to discuss their family plans or their health or their family circumstances. Not all employers are ogres though and some genuinely would welcome these conversations in order to make the relationship better and help employees, not discriminate against the employee.

HR concerns (misconceptions) do make it more difficult to have open conversations IME, which breeds assumptions. I had an entire department assuming I wasn't coming back after mat leave because no-one else ever had, but no-one felt able to ask me the question.

FelicityWasCold Thu 07-Mar-13 09:34:19

If we don't ask men it is meaningless.

And women would lie- I would. Because to admit to wanting a family would damage your chances of employment- and until that culture is changed it would be madness to tell the truth. And if you have 'lied' and then become pregnant, how would they prove whether or not it was planned? Horrendous situation could ensue.

AThingInYourLife Thu 07-Mar-13 09:35:25

There's nothing stopping people having open conversations with their employers now about their family planning.

Presumably they don't for the same reason people tend not to talk about these things to any but their closest confidants - it's intensely private.

Nothing needs to change unless there is to be some element of forced co-operation.

BlueyDragon Thu 07-Mar-13 20:53:18

But there are barriers to employers asking the question, "Oh, you mustn't ask that, you'll get done for discrimination". Even when the purpose of asking the question is not actually discriminatory but designed to assist the employee and employer in continuing their working relationship.

CabbageLeaves Thu 07-Mar-13 21:22:15

I've just employed someone and my educated guess is that the only candidate going to possibly need maternity leave is the one I've employed.

Did it cross my mind? If I'm honest...yes. Small dept, long time training new staff with costs involved. Impact will be significant if she does fall pregnant. She was the best candidate and got the job anyway.

My point is that the conversation would not have made the difference to me. Had it made a difference I'd probably be the sort of employer to have avoided her regardless.

What are HR hoping to get out of it?

Is this pre employment, during employment? Will they ask yearly? Will they stop asking when you're 45, single?

Stupid idea I think

no way! hugely regressive move.

and just wow at her specifically saying 'ask women'.

no, no, no, no, no!

dozily Fri 08-Mar-13 13:55:57

I would strongly oppose this. And asking men as well as women wouldn't stop sex discrimination at all - like it or not, they will ignore the man's answer but mentally put a black mark against the woman's name if she said she was planning a family soon. Employer are well aware that women are more likely than men to request maternity leave and flexible working.

Wigeon Fri 08-Mar-13 13:58:05

As well as agreeing with what everyone's exactly would this make career planning better from the woman's point of view? So let's imagine that the employer knows that the woman is planning on getting pregnant. So they put her on a short-term project, as she'll be off soon, right? She gets pregnant. She tells her employers after the 12 week scan. Then she miscarries. She is coming to the end of the short-term project. She is still TTC but it's taking a while. The employer thinks, I won't put her on that big high profile project. She still isn't pregnant. In the time she's still been at work, she could have been on a big project right from the start.

I can't see any benefits from the employee's point of view and therefore no incentives to tell your employer about your plans.

Will the employer also pay for fertility tests on those who say they are planning a family? Many many people would love children, but cannot, for what ever reason. If you say no, will you have to provide proof of you decision? Letter fro the doctor prescribing your birth control or who performed your sterilisation.

Discrimination against women of childbearing age already exists, bringing in this just gives the employer justification.

Is she related to Katie Hopkins? They would get on like a house on fire!

dozily Fri 08-Mar-13 14:02:51

However... it would be "family friendly" for a company to promote its maternity /paternity /flexible working policies to job applicants as long as the applicants weren't expected to divulge their plans. I would certainly support this.

Phineyj Fri 08-Mar-13 14:04:28

Only if it's so they can make sure I know about their subsidised workplace creche!!

Booyhoo Fri 08-Mar-13 14:06:31


Can I also say, the company I work for have fantastic maternity policy and pay, but twice I have been over looked for a promotion since returning from maternity leave.

So having the policies doesnt necessarily mean the company is "family friendly" it's all about the lower management who implement them and if you happen upon someone who does not think the same way they can quite easily give you a different reason for you unsuccessful application.

Trills Fri 08-Mar-13 14:15:15

Vicki is there any chance that you'd like to change your nickname to VickiMumsnet with a big M?

I think companies should advocate flexible working and working from home for everyone where their job is suitable for it, regardless of their family situation or other responsibilities. I think that employees are more motivated and work better when they feel that their employers trust them and believe in them.

AThingInYourLife Fri 08-Mar-13 14:22:19

But there are barriers to employers asking the question, "Oh, you mustn't ask that, you'll get done for discrimination".

And rightly so.

Asking someone about their family planning is impertinent.

If your employees want your help in this regard, they will ask.

OhGood Fri 08-Mar-13 14:24:47

In an ideal world, if I were planning a long career with an organisation, I would really like to be able to have an open conversation about this, if I were TTC, for example.

Unfortunately, as all previous comments have pointed out, we are light years away from that ideal world. And the frame of the question alone (casting this as an issue for women only? I mean have we got nowhere with this issue?) should show why we need all the current protection and legislation.

I think there are far more constructive things Sheryl Sandbery can do to be sisterly.

Touchmybum Fri 08-Mar-13 14:25:35

How could you ever trust an employer not to use the information you give them negatively?

And what if you say yes, I am planning to have a family in x amount of time - and your colleague lies and says, no, I've no plans - and then gets treated more favourably?

While wombs continue to be the preserve of women... no, this is a question which should never be asked.

And I work in HR.

GetOrf Fri 08-Mar-13 14:26:55

No, not at all. It would be a massive step backwards.

I would lie anyway if I was asked.

It is a ridiculous question to ask anyway. Just because you plan to ttc in 6 months it could take years to conceive. Or you could have a lucky surprise and get pregnant without meaning to. At least you get notice to plan when a woman announces she is pregnant. Not like a colleague who I worked with years ago who fell down her back step, fractured her hip terribly and was off work for 6 months.

Plus, I have just employed someone who was on a waiting list for major surgery, was expecting it to take months. He was lucky in that he got a place quicker than expected and he is off for about 6 weeks next month. I didn't ask if he had major surgery planned in interview. And I would have been an idiot if I had not employed him because of it - he was simply the best candidate for the job and that is the only consideration anyone should make when recruiting. Everything else requires good planning and management, and if you can't cope with the difficulties with that then you are not a good enough manager and shouldn't be involved in the hiring of staff.

Welovegrapes Fri 08-Mar-13 14:29:10

No - absolutely not

Wossname Fri 08-Mar-13 14:39:29

What if you don't have a 'career' but work in crappy places like shops, bars, rest homes and other minimum wage jobs? Is the expectation that if I go for a job stacking shelves in Asda that the person interviewing me will be happy to take into account my plans for a child? And not, say, give the job to a 20 year old man instead?

In an ideal world, with lovely supportive employers and co-workers, then yes.

But we're not in an ideal world, and a woman who admitted to be planning to take a break to have a baby in a year's time would not be treated as favourably.

It would be lovely if everyone could have a conversation about the more common "what ifs", and change those "what ifs" into "what cans", i.e. "what can we do to support you if you are returning from maternity leave", "what can we do to support you and your family in order to get the best out of you at work", "what can we do to support your breastfeeding"....

TiredyCustards Fri 08-Mar-13 14:48:44

Ridiculous suggestion. How on earth would this help women?

If the answer to the question makes a difference to how the employee is treated, then it's discrimination.

If the answer doesn't make a difference then why ask?

LexyMa Fri 08-Mar-13 15:00:12

I've just had an interview and been offered a job on promotion internally. I am 15 weeks pg and will be about 21w when I start. I did not make any allusion to this in the interview

Before accepting the offer, I called HR to ask about how they apply the maternity policy for newly promoted staff... "just in some point..." They could not give me a straight answer.

The bit of the policy I was concerned about states that if you take anything more than ordinary maternity leave (26weeks) you come back into your post on same T&Cs, or you are offered something else at the same approximate grade - in this job the promotion route is not 'substantive' and therefore the 'something else' would be impossible to identify, so I would be likely to end up down a grade. I would in that instance go straight to a grievance/ tribunal etc.

What I had to do next was call the line manager and tell him I'd be accepting, but would be taking 6 months ML from Sept. I felt like I was inviting him to put his foot in it and I felt bad about that. He could not have been more reassuring and said it did not change the fact I was the best candidate for the job, we would just have to adjust how the team as a whole planned its output over the coming year.

The HR policy, I now think, is written so that anyone interested in their career only takes 6 months off for mat leave. Those 6 are at full pay, which is great, but the cliff edge to "potentially lose hold on your whole career plan" is very very stark.

I am surprised Xenia has not commented yet on this thread (and I do not mean that sarcastically). Before she does, I will say that the reason I can be confident that I will only need my 6 months ML is that my DH (actually without me asking him to) intends to make my career the priority one of our family. He has, coincidentally, just heard he is likely going to be made redundant (he currently earns 50% more than me) but ensuring that he does all the overnight duty as I go back to work and prove myself again will be another way to show my work (I mean my team and peers, not HR who only see me as a line of data) that I am committed.

So in answer to the question, NO I think HR definitely should not start that conversation. There are so many more influences on 'how you are going to perform as an employee' than whether you have borne or will bear children, I would frankly be insulted. When I am at work I want to be judged equally to the person who has only a cat to feed in the evenings, and the person up all night with an elderly incontinent parent, and the person running five step/adoptive/children between dance and karate clubs six nights a week.

AnneEyhtMeyer Fri 08-Mar-13 15:02:19

I will just tell you about my experience.

I started a new job, and my first task was to downsize the department dramatically. In my first few weeks I had to work out who was going to go, and I was constantly told by HR people and managers who was pregnant, who was TTC and who had just had a baby and was likely to have another. It wasn't just implied that these should be the ones to go, it was assumed they would be.

Not long after I notified people of their redundancies (and no, I didn't pick the ones they wanted, I did it fairly) I was called into a meeting by one of the directors and quizzed about my family, lack of children, plans to have a family. I was in there for more than half an hour. I had tried to conceive for a long while, hadn't been successful and at the age I was (36) had decided that it just wasn't going to happen, so I truthfully told them that I was not planning on having children.

Days later there were a huge swathe of senior management redundancies, and yet I was spared the axe, and I have no doubt that my answers in that meeting were crucial in that.

What I didn't know was that I was actually pregnant at the time. You can imagine how well that went down I announced it.

This wasn't some two-bit company, this is a PLC (FTSE 250 company) and was only a few years ago (DD is almost 4). If anyone thinks that asking questions about plans to conceive at interview will be beneficial for women they are deluded.

caramelwaffle Fri 08-Mar-13 15:08:44

No. They most certainly should not be asking women.

good to read people's actual experiences.

i was not asked anything about my family situation or intentions at interview (started new job in november). i chose to mention my son, that he was at school and that i was lucky to have involved family close by who were happy to provide impromptu childcare meaning i did have the capacity to be flexible. i'm sure that worked in my favour but it was up to me to bring it up - it would have been utterly inappropriate for them to ask.

some people are incredibly naive about how much employers do respond to your family circumstances. one lady in my initial group interview kept going on about her sick mother and her caring responsibilities (using it as an example of a quality she was talking about in herself) and you knew she was not coming back after lunch!

there is no way they should be able to ask people questions like this at all, let alone just target women. women are already targets.

thereonthestair Fri 08-Mar-13 15:18:09

Interesting. I have always worked in firms who do ask. By the way I am an employment lawyer so really know the risks I this regards. When I suggested asking staff on Another thread earlier this week I was slated. However in my experience it was always better to ask and plan. Maybe I am lucky and always knew that I would be supported with what I chose and that my colleagues would equally be supported. In the end I had ds very early and my work were fantastic.

But I will also say I changed firms a few months ago and three out of 6 people who were vital to this working are woman planning children. One is now pregnant, one having ivf and me. We all felt we owed it to the men who we were working with to explain what we were planning and to explain that we were not all planning to be off together. It was a real concern to all of us, because losing half of the workforce at a time means the difference between us all succeeding, and us all failing. Which means if I was not honest and had pull the three men along with me then their families might also have been at risk. How is it not fair to discuss this with the people who are taking the same risks you are?

I will also say in my field all the discussions are about how the families will plan, not how the women will as there is a presumption that the men will take their leave too, especially as the women are paid more (being lawyers) and we all also have to think about who is going to be available for the clients, as a result of this I have taken the view that ttc when my colleague is pregnant is not for me, as we can't be off together, if that means that I stick with one child then so be it. I have the rest of my life to think about to, and my career is important to me. ( I haven't made my mind up though)

BIWI Fri 08-Mar-13 15:19:47

If I thought that HR was on the side of employees, then it might be a consideration - if asked of both men and women - in terms of long term career planning.

But HR is never there for the employees' benefit. They are there for the management of the company, to make sure it is run efficiently and legally.

I'm outraged, actually, that another woman should be asking such a dreadful, retrograde question.

Of course we should not be asking women if they are planning on having children before we offer them a job!

<BIWI's head explodes>

In answer to your question, Vicki - what Wyrd said. If they are going to ask men about their families, and plans for families, and what the impact will be on their career, and take the answers as seriously for men as they do for women, then fine.

I do know one woman at work who openly asked about (and challenged) the maternity policy at our (large, blue chip) employer at interview. All credit to her - and in the process of course she learned a lot (mostly good) about the people she would be working for and with. She has just come back from mat leave grin

Maternity policies are NOT discussed upfront, IME, and they bloody well should be. The employer should be promoting their maternity policy. Ours is such a hidden thing that our country MD was shocked to find out (on a call with the womens network team) that it had been changed and was now significantly worse than "market norm" for new employees sad

FrillyMilly Fri 08-Mar-13 15:24:02

What's the difference between needing time off for children, a disabled partner, long term illness, elderly parents or bereavement? Many people, men and women, have commitments and need time off at some point in their career. I don't think telling a company your family plans will help your career at all, it would be used to discriminate.

CMOTDibbler Fri 08-Mar-13 15:25:47

Only if you ask everyone their reproductive plans, wider family responsibilities/liabilities, and commit to making flexible working/career provisions etc available without those choices affecting their promotion and career prospects.

When I joined the company I'm with, I had no thoughts on my reproductive future - and it was 7 years before I had a child. 6 years on, and its my elderly parents who are more disruptive to my work life!

curryeater Fri 08-Mar-13 15:30:31

No one asked me if I was planning to have any children but I was, and this has contributed hugely to my loyalty to the company from which I have taken two maternity leaves.

However, having anounced my pregnancies in good time, both times, the last weeks and days of work before maternity leave were heavily overshadowed by the stress of not having been empowered to plan cover for my leaves properly. Companies may say they want to plan when the ball is in your court, but when it's in theirs, they want to stick their fingers in their ears and say "la la la la".

nenevomito Fri 08-Mar-13 15:32:34

There's nothing sisterly about it and no, HR departments shouldn't be asking.

Asking men as well still doesn't cut it, as even in families where the woman is the main earner, the assumption is that the man will continue working where the woman will suddenly want to stay home and bake sodding fairy cakes.

Lots of companies already state that they don't want to employ women of child bearing age, regardless of their skills and ability. Being able to ask whether or not they want to have children would just make that worse.

Companies should make their maternity policies available to all employed staff anyway.

Mintberry Fri 08-Mar-13 15:36:08

Put it this way, I wouldn't tell the truth if I were asked. I haven't met a single employer I have thought would choose to have to pay maternity leave. I have known a woman be sacked for accidentally falling pregnant within the 3 month trial period. Compassion isn't usually part of a business plan! You've got to support your kids somehow, so I reckon it would be pointless because hardly anyone would hold their hands up and say "Yes, I am TTC/planning to start TTC".

EuroShaggleton Fri 08-Mar-13 15:40:26

I've been ttc for over two years. If I had told my employer over two years ago that I was planning to start a family, no doubt I would have been held back from interesting long term projects and so on. As it is, I have done some very interesting and high profile work over that period. And frankly I have no desire to discuss with anyone at work my plans to have unprotected sex with my husband. Would they want details of positions next ffs?

Also, in this country, parental leave can now be split. From memory, I think the mother has to take the first 20 weeks of any leave, but the time after that can be divided between the parents (and it is something we are considering as I am the higher earner). So for this to make sense, it would need to be asked to men and women.

Anyway, employers are free to ask the question now. There's no ban on it. They will however face a discrimination claim if they can be shown to have discriminated on the basis of the information received, so they would be foolish to do so.

caramelwaffle Fri 08-Mar-13 15:50:59

A friend and colleague of mine is part way through six months + off work with a young baby. They had planned for years to do this.

It is six months full pay, plus extra time off at a reduced rate.

They are the higher earner out of the couple and they have decided it makes sense financially and in terms of parenting style for them to be the one at home.

They are a real "earth mother/loves children" type.

It is adoption leave and extra leave.

My friend is male.

Go figure, as the youths say.

CheeseStrawWars Fri 08-Mar-13 15:51:53

So the argument is that women going on maternity leave causes disruption and costs money - is disruption and cost really going to be affected by women disclosing whether they are planning a family or not? It's still a lottery when you will conceive from when you start TTC, so it's not as if planning can take place in an any more organised fashion, it will still happen when it happens.

I can't imagine any scenario in which disruption would be minimised through such disclosure - except for where the employer chose the person who said they weren't planning to have/increase their family, over the person who said there were. Which minimises disruption to the business - assuming the other person was being honest and had 100% failsafe contraception - but is discriminatory, and penalises honesty.

And where would it stop? Would you be expected to comment on how many children you were aiming for and with what age gaps? Disclose your current methods of contraception for risk assessment?!

Are all staff also going to be asked to disclose when they start job-hunting, as that also causes disruption and has a cost implication, or would that be considered an invasion of privacy?

caramelwaffle Fri 08-Mar-13 15:52:46

His wife has remained at work.

CheeseStrawWars Fri 08-Mar-13 15:53:35

However, having anounced my pregnancies in good time, both times, the last weeks and days of work before maternity leave were heavily overshadowed by the stress of not having been empowered to plan cover for my leaves properly. Companies may say they want to plan when the ball is in your court, but when it's in theirs, they want to stick their fingers in their ears and say "la la la la".

^^ This. This was completely my experience too!

Trills Fri 08-Mar-13 15:54:15

Do't you have to tell your employer that you are pregnant by about halfway through your pregnancy anyway? So they have 4/5 months to plan before you start maternity leave.

Wishiwasanheiress Fri 08-Mar-13 16:04:10


It's an infringement of personal freedom. I should be able to think on Monday I hate kids never want them, go out meet a great guy/win lottery, on Tuesday and Wednesday decide to have them without having to discuss this with line management for permission.

Would a man accept such treatment? No. So why the ballyhoo should I?

Wishiwasanheiress Fri 08-Mar-13 16:05:09

Would they be able to sue me for changing my mind? Brain boggles!!!

Wishiwasanheiress Fri 08-Mar-13 16:07:30

Has anyone at mnhq asked at interview about maternity or family policies?

If not why not? I'm guessing no one would think it appropriate on either side of gender/employment status.

MrsKwazii Fri 08-Mar-13 16:08:02

No, they shouldn't for all of the reasons people have already given. And in an age where many women can have the better paid/prospects job in a couple, if it were a question to be asked, then it should be asked of men as well as it may well be that they'll be asking for flexible working and parental leave as well. If businesses employ people childbearing age then some will inevitably have children, being more upfront about what a company offers and expects would be more honest than asking about family plans - plans which can often turn out to be entirely different in reality.

Are they also going to ask employees if they intend to develop chronic illnesses or any other health problems too?

Wishiwasanheiress Fri 08-Mar-13 16:12:39

Final point, I notice the fallacy that hr is for employees. That's false. That is simply marketing fashion which altered in last 20yrs. Hr is in fact the 'human' face of the legal department and are solely there to protect the firm from legal issue. Hr was born to mop up petty disputes before they became big legal issues. As employment has become more complicated hr altered.

Never believe an hr that professes to be on your side. They are not.

What percentage of pregnancies are planned? Maybe 50%?
And how many plan to have a family imminently and have problems?

Leaving aside the blatant sexism, the answer to the question tells the interviewer NOTHING, so there's no point asking it.

thereonthestair Fri 08-Mar-13 16:18:54

I love the idea hr is the human face of legal. What does that make us employment lawyers?

LindaMcCartneySausage Fri 08-Mar-13 16:21:30

No, they shouldn't. Do they ask male colleagues about their plans for a family? Do they want details of my cycle and sex life to help them plan?

I doubt there would be any upside to women in all this proposed honesty. If it's about career planning, and call me Mrs Sceptical, but I doubt they would be saying; "Oh, so you're planning two children. Ok then, we think you're really good at your job - how about we promote you now before you have them?".

More like "Oh, so you're planning 2 children. Ok then, we'd better not put you on this new interesting project which would be ideal for your talents or, heaven forfend, promote you, because you'll only piss off for a year, then another year and we'll have to cover you and cost us £££ in maternity pay"

Sunnywithshowers Fri 08-Mar-13 16:28:08

Absolutely not. It's hugely discriminatory and is not going to 'help' women at all.

MadCap Fri 08-Mar-13 16:58:42

Just adding a big YY to what all the previous posters have said. What a horrible idea!

DrRanj Fri 08-Mar-13 17:06:06


That's all I have to say about that...

HotheadPaisan Fri 08-Mar-13 17:11:33

Absolutely it should not be asked - unexpected and expected things happen in life, work can adjust, it's not that hard.

And irrespective of whatever plans you might have, you cannot ultimately control conception and pregnancy so it would be an utterly pointless discussion anyway.

Wishiwasanheiress Fri 08-Mar-13 17:24:26

Hi Thereona,

Re hr being human face of legal, not lawyers that doesn't fit the marketing angle. Professional friends?... Hr mops up all the human issues so they don't hit legal. All manager disputes, hirings, firings, petty jealousys and family issues. We are just designed to stop these hurting the firm. Damage limitators?

Phineyj Fri 08-Mar-13 17:36:16

This discussion has reminded me of the time I was asked in great depth about my childcare arrangements at interview, despite having no children! (was ttc at the time, looking at IVF so it was all a bit sad). Strangely I didn't take the job when offered...

thereonthestair you are talking about letting peers know of your plans, which is fair enough (especially if your earnings as a team depend on each other) -- that's not really the question here, which is about asking in a situation where the power to hire, fire or make life deeply unpleasant is with the person asking.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

why stop there? you could ask female employees about their cycle length, frequency of intercourse, method of contraception, number of sexual partners and so on, then pop the answers into an algorithm to predict who, and when those women were most likely to get pregnant (either planned or accidentally). Then you could discriminate Really effectively.
which would save people like my ex boss from having to write "FYI, verylittlecarrot is pregnant" on the bottom of my internal job application form to spare the interviewer the inconvenience of considering me properly.angry
or you could accept that there is still massive inequality in the workplace, a gender pay gap, discrimination is still firmly entrenched, and we do not need any measures to facilitate further discrimination.
This would be a retrograde step, and a roll back of hard won rights.

nextphase Fri 08-Mar-13 18:06:03

I think companies should just assume ANY female under about 45 may end up taking time off as Maternity leave, and any man (think you can become a father to past retirement age?) may be taking extended paternity under the new rules.

If there is anyone in the company who is literally irreplaceable, they need to sort out a system of making sure they are replaceable, and that someone could come in new to the job and pick up the pieces if, for example, they fell under a bus, or maybe went on maternity.

Work had 6 months to decide where my work load was going. They told me about the cover plan 2 days before I left. I don't see what extra warning would have done.

JulesJules Fri 08-Mar-13 18:33:45

Would it make for easier career planning for women?

has to be one of the most hilarious things I've ever heard it's not .

Would it make it easier for HR to manage women out of their careers would be more like it.

TheChimpParadox Fri 08-Mar-13 18:52:06

NO !

Should you then ask how many children they are hoping to have ? and at what age do you stop asking the question ?

(Apologies in advance if my post appears again at some stage - I typed it on my phone but it has not appeared )

What 'open conversation' does COO of Facebook want ?

Q: Are you planning to start a family ?
A: No (lie)

End of conversation !

lubeybooby Fri 08-Mar-13 19:05:17

Just quite simply <headdesk> at this. For gods sake. For all the reasons everyone else has been saying.

Gatorade Fri 08-Mar-13 19:29:10

I personally don't have a problem with this. I was very open and honest with my employer about my plans to have another child when I returned from maternity leave. I found this invaluable as I'm in a senior management position and wanted to ensure I had a role that I could leave for another period of maternity leave without negatively impacting on client and colleague relationships. If i hadn't felt comfortable enough to have this discussion I would have ended up with a role that wouldn't have been appropriate to leave after 9 months, wasting both my time and employers resources.

Saying that it is up to the individual employee wether or not they feel they want to have these conversations, I certainly wouldn't want it to be mandatory. I think that the current situation is a bit ridiculous though with employers being worried about having frank discussions which could benefit both them and the employee.

thereonthestair Fri 08-Mar-13 19:31:35

Gatorade says it very well in my opinion. Maybe it depends on what you do though....

HotheadPaisan Fri 08-Mar-13 19:42:12

But I started ttc at 31 and didn't have a baby until I was 35, couldn't have put work and projects and opportunities on hold for that long.

And I didn't know when I'd be ready to try for another, and then two years later when I was ready I had a mmc at 13 weeks anyway, took another three months for my periods to return so I could try again etc etc.

Anyone can end up not working on a project for any reason at any time, that's just life.

TheFallenNinja Fri 08-Mar-13 19:45:09

No, absolutely not. Employers DO NOT GIVE A SHIT about employees, this constant prying is just that, prying and judging and making decisions that make themselves money.

GoSuckEggs Fri 08-Mar-13 19:52:33

ask away.... doesnt mean i will tell.

EATmum Fri 08-Mar-13 19:58:59

Ok, seem to have lost my earlier response.
1. No. Of course no. What possible advantage is there for the employee in their boss being able to quiz them about their fertility? Mad idea.
2. In defence of my profession, yes HR teams are employed by companies and work on their behalf. But unless you can show me a business that doesn't need supported and motivated staff, please stop painting us as the enemy. Some of us work very hard to provide help when our teams need it most. Because that is in everyone's interest.
3. The above notwithstanding I have this conversation about maternity/paternity plans regularly, but ONLY at the employee 's instigation. If they are ready to talk about their plans, and if they trust you (critical), a conversation can be helpful to talk about policies and benefits. Then people can plan, manage their lives.
4. So if you have to ask, either the employee isn't ready to talk or they don't trust you. Hence 1.

changeforthebetter Fri 08-Mar-13 20:03:35

No they shouldn't be asking. Look, women have babies. These babies will be economically active (for the most part), paying your pension when you are an old gimmer, you selfish fucker!angry Sorry, I feel strongly about this. Women "having time off to have babies" - yeah right, cos childbirth and early motherhood is just a walk in the park, yeah?! (Ps my bile is not directed at OP but at anybody who thinks motherhood is the easy option)

MrsHoarder Fri 08-Mar-13 20:03:42

No. Employees private lives are not the property of employers and this would make the social problem of women being reluctant to risk their careers to have children worse.

Of course big business would prefer their employees to not have a family life, but that doesn't mean they should be allowed to try to interfere.

MrsHoarder Fri 08-Mar-13 20:07:06

No. Employees private lives are not the property of employers and this would make the social problem of women being reluctant to risk their careers to have children worse.

Of course big business would prefer their employees to not have a family life, but that doesn't mean they should be allowed to try to interfere.

KatieMiddleton Fri 08-Mar-13 20:14:49

No. I don't want to hear if you're doing it! <clutches pearls>

I do want to know if we're losing good people due to having children; not managing maternity leave well; not meeting our statutory and moral duties; discriminating by not offering enhanced occupational benefits to men that we are to women. I also want to know what parents and all other employees think and how I can help make it a great place to work.

And yes, ultimately my job is to work for the employer and the best way to do that is to make sure we treat people fairly and do things consistently and with an eye on the future. At least it would be but I'm on maternity leave.

FadBook Fri 08-Mar-13 20:17:43

I saw a caption on a cartoon today with a woman lying face first on a desk saying: headdesk: when facepalms are just not enough This describes the comment by this silly woman.

I agree with most of you, this is a HUGE step backwards. If employees want to be open about their plans, that's of course ok, but this shouldn't be a compulsory disclosure, or even asked of people by management/owners. Throw fertility issues in to it and you are dealing with many emotions that most people try and separate from work (from personal experience) and it just isn't something that is going to help close the already existing gender pay gap or give the same opportunities to women as men.

I disagree with those who mainly have harsh words against HR. Of course, if that's your experience, then you haven't met the other 90% of HR professionals who do care about employees, their development, health and welfare. It's just a shame that some of you view all HR departments negatively with their people 'out to get ya'. We are just normal people, paying the bills by working in job we love most of the time Of course, we are accountable to whoever pays our salary and it is those people (normally managers, owners or stakeholders) that are the ones who sometimes push for illegal / unethical actions to happen; not HR. It is with integrity and extremely strong influencing and negotiating skills of your HR department (supported by employment law in place, which has improved workplace practices incredibly over the past 20 years) that results in those people (managers etc) doing things the right way and not the way they'd like to do it (think Alan Sugar - your fired!) I'm making a general sweeping statement here, of course not all managers/owners are like this (just like not all HR people are squeaky clean) but HR get a bad name for carrying out negative processes that sometimes need to take place (disciplinaries, redundancies and dismissals) and the good things like development, training, recruitment, pay and reward and engagement strategies that are implemented in an organisation are forgotten.

<just saying>

<gets off high horse>

<reaches for wine>

KatieMiddleton Fri 08-Mar-13 20:20:49

That would be Alan Sugar currently appearing at an East London employment tribunal? wink

toomuchpink Fri 08-Mar-13 20:31:28

It would be totally wrong to ask women. I planned to start a family - a year later I still had not successfully conceived. Imagine if all that time my boss was thinking he would not assign me anything too involved in case I was about to go on mat leave. It would have been an even worse year than it was. I have a friend at work who has been unable to conceive successfully for years, how weird would it be for her if the estranged HR team knew all about that? I have sympathy with the needs of businesses to plan, but they get time to plan between the woman announcing she is pregnant at 12 weeks and her going off on mat leave nearer 40.

ohforfoxsake Fri 08-Mar-13 20:32:48


no. and if you only ask women what kind of message are you sending?

minibird69 Fri 08-Mar-13 21:03:59

Absolutely NOT. There is quite enough discrimination in the work place (and the school drop off) already. Maybe employers should ask all potential employees if they plan to have back problems?

(Happily married with 2 kids inspite of never wanting either)

FadBook Fri 08-Mar-13 21:08:09

KM- grin @ Alan Sugar this week. I imagine it isn't his first ET claim or his last wink didn't he cause controversy a few years back when he asked that posh Katie Hopkins about childcare? I'm sure he said something similar to what this woman is saying

morethanpotatoprints Fri 08-Mar-13 21:10:58

Ok, they shouldn't be allowed, but sorry if I'm being a bit dim, but why would they ask men. Have I missed the first man to have given birth or something, lol.

Strix Fri 08-Mar-13 21:36:57

Men should be entitled to the same parental leave that women are (only then will they start taking it), and then t hey will be asked the same questions. Until that is equal, this question should not even be discussed. Totally outrageous that this question should even be taken seriously.

beside they also get paternity leave potato?because they also need child care?

morethanpotatoprints Fri 08-Mar-13 22:05:02

So, just out of interest how long is maternity and paternity for and when do women start maternity leave now.
I ask as my kids are older and it used to be start maternity at 28 wks and dh had no paid leave.

KatieMiddleton Fri 08-Mar-13 22:07:48

Fadbook - no idea about the horror that is KH but I did really enjoy the bit reported on radio 4 that apparently he had been told to "answer the questions not ask them" hahaha.

Is there a salacious emoticon? Because if so I want to use it here grin

KatieMiddleton Fri 08-Mar-13 22:13:20

2 weeks ordinary paternity leave for fathers (or the person assuming the parent role), 52 weeks for mothers that can start as late as the day after birth but not earlier than 15 weeks before the expected week of delivery.

But, a mother can choose to give the rest of her leave to the father once the baby is 20 weeks old so long as he is an employee and he can take a minimum of 2 weeks up to what is left of the mother's 52 weeks but not to exceed 26 weeks. The mother must return to work to pass over the leave. Rights to statutory pay depend on length of service and self employed men get nothing.

This is due to change in 2015 if shared leave comes in except for the big about self employed men. They'll still get nothing.

KatieMiddleton Fri 08-Mar-13 22:14:44

Bit not big.

That was to answer potato prints.

minibird69 Fri 08-Mar-13 23:08:09

I still think its unfair to ask because the leave is not balanced and the question of childbirth is unpredictable and highly personal. A few years ago (5) I returned to work after 6 months and my OH gave up working to be SAHD to our very welcome but earlier-than-hoped-2nd-child (you know the ones). Our choice - OH self employed and I earn more.... But 26 weeks max parental leave for fathers vs max. 52 weeks for mothers is NOT balanced in terms of the impact to the business (which is all employers REALLY care about). My employers, benefit from the fact that my DH still puts childcare first when considering his work options and is always there to take the slack if there is a work 'emergency’. Yet, when I was sterilised because I dont want another pregnancy I felt the need to keep this private from my employers because its intensely personal. Its none of their business!

StillStuck Fri 08-Mar-13 23:16:59

the problem is that we might have 'plans' for when we intend to start a family but they don't always go to plan. DH and I planned to start ttc at a certain point, then had to postpone because he was having a wobble about it, then in the end it took me over 2 years to get pregnant. I moved employer just a few months before I got pregnant, at which stage I had almost given up expecting it to ever happen or at least I expected we would need fertility treatment. So it is hard to see how an employer would hope to 'plan' for all this uncertainty.

also, I would be wary of it as my experience is that there are employers who pay enthusiastic lip service to the idea of being family friendly whilst harbouring numerous managers who are anything but ( colleague, a strong, kind and talented woman, was bullied ceaselessly throughout her pregnancy and again on her return from maternity leave, in a so called 'family friendly' organisation).

It worries me that if employers were allowed to ask, supposedly in the interests of 'planning' then they (or at least some ) would discriminate against a woman planning to start a family and yet in reality (due to changes in relationship circumstances/ infertility/ other) her plans might not materialise.

however, I do have some sympathy for the view in the sense that I was very open and upfront about having a child and wanting to balance work and childcare when I applied for a job whilst on maternity leave, and consequently I knew from day 1 (and have been proved right) that my employer was supportive of my need to balance the competing demands of work/ childcare: I have been able to work part time, I have adjusted my hours several times in the past 2 years for different reasons, there is no hassle whatsoever if my child is ill or I have childcare problems, I can always leave on time, its a pressured job but any extra work I do once my son is in bed and I claim back the hours (so can have bonus time with my son when things are calmer)

StillStuck Fri 08-Mar-13 23:18:04

although yes, agree they should ask men too, DH now works compressed hours so he can do the childcare one day a week. luckily his employer was very supportive of the suggestion.

I was quite concerned that I would find it difficult to get a new job when I had one small child as the assumption might be that I would want another fairly soon. It was obvious that I had a child as I was looking for part time work to fit around my family life. I might have preferred to be able to discuss this at interview, but obviously it couldn't be raised by an interviewer and it seems odd to blurt out "I don't want any more, or at least not for a long time".

In my job, I have few dealings with HR and can't imagine how they could instigate a conversation about my plans for further children. I can easily imagine discussing it with my line manager, but I appreciate that I am lucky to have a good relationship with my line manager. HR is often quite a remote function and not necessarily involved in sucession/maternity leave planning as much as the department itself.

I don't think we sufficiently recognise the benefits of employing working mothers or soon to be mothers. In my situation, my employer has allowed me to work flexibly and in return has loyalty and is aware that my circumstances will make me loyal so can rely on that to make plans. If I do have a further period of maternity leave then as a large organisation it is a great opportunity to second someone into my role to gain experience and grow within the organisation.

Even though I feel I could discuss this with my line manager and I don't think the impact on the business would be much of an issue for my organisation, I haven't done so. This is because I agree with previous comments that wanting a child, TTC and being pregnant don't automatically lead to maternity leave. I certainly am not planning my career around a maternity leave that might never happen and I don't want my employer to be doing this either. Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans - I don't think you should put everything on hold for a twinkle in your partner's eye and you certainly don't want anyone else putting it on hold on your behalf.

badinage Sat 09-Mar-13 01:51:32

Obviously no because it would be against the law, but this sort of idiocy from Facebook doesn't surprise me in the slightest and if a senior executive is coming out with this sort of lunacy, we can all guess how much lip service her organisation pays to diversity in the workplace. This sort of public comment would put any sane woman off from applying for a position there, so how foolhardy to diminish the pool of recruitment talent in one fell swoop.

The focus on mothers and not fathers is absolutely typical of an organisation that allows rape apologists, rape inciters and hate speech against women on its site.

nooka Sat 09-Mar-13 04:52:49

If I was asked a question about my childbearing plans during interview it would seriously make me question whether ii was the sort of organisation that I would like to work for, and I would most likely turn the job down if offered it.

I did once have a conversation about pregnancy with my manager, but that was very different because I liked her, and knew she valued me. Plus it wasn't a difficult conversation as dh was already lined up for the snip. It was cued by another team member announcing pregnancy so for fairly obvious reasons she was thinking about interim arrangements. I've never needed to ask about maternity policies because they were available on the intranet.

EuroShaggleton Sat 09-Mar-13 06:02:16

The planning excuse is pretty flimsy when you think that people can go off on sick leave with next to no notice (e.g. Colleague has just had big op and been off for three months on about a fortnight's notice) and have notice periods of typically 1 to 3 months. Businesses just have to be able to cope with personnel changes. Mat leave is the one they usually get the most notice about.

msrisotto Sat 09-Mar-13 07:31:30

Sheryl Sandbery lives in a dream world to be fair. It seems with her, everything is about (fantastic, fulfilling) careers and well run businesses. The world at large is not like this.

Some women are going for lower paid jobs that she would probably not consider a career, such as cleaner or shelf stacker. I just don't see the businesses interest in the career planning of their cleaner tbh. They seem to be treated as quite replaceable and where a company sees that someone might be a pita, they just won't bother employing them. This just won't happen with men. She's really annoyed me with this privileged and oblivious comment.

And this is getting way too personal! I am 27 with no immediate plans for children but even if I were ttc right now, I would lie in interview. I mean, imagine asking your interviewee and them saying they were infertile?! You might understand how inappropriate the question is at that point. I wouldnt tell family when i was ttc because it might not happen for me and i do not need the questions, i dont even want others thinking sbout me in that way. call me british but its just too intimate. And as others have said, the answer is meaningless even if true because people who believe they are infertile can still fall pregnant or adopt.

Pregnancy is actually the most convenient long term leave an employee can take. There is plenty of time to plan around it, but a lot of stupid companies don't even do that. What good would more time do??

I have been wanting to comment on this but tbh am still quite shocked that mnhq think it's the sort of thing we'd like to debate. It may be that the op knew exactly what the responses would be, but tbh I've always thought of mnhq as campaigners for parents and for women, and so I'm quite surprised they're even asking the question. Otoh it's nice to be consulted...but still.

i agree it's too private. yes you could be infertile, you could have just found out your husband is cheating on you, you could be desperate to have children but your partner doesn't want to or you haven't found the right person, you could be gay and already have decided your partner was going to be the birth mum but not wish to disclose your sexuality to your employer, you could have had a horrendous miscarriage recently or just been through a termination after screening discovered a condition that would mean the baby wouldn't survive to term anyway and on and on and on.

it is so inappropriate to ask a woman about this let alone to ask her in the interview process.

some people just don't think do they? this woman is coming at this from such a naive and narrow perspective about the realities of women's lives and employers attitudes. to her it might seem a simple question - to others it might be everything but.

ThePskettiIncident Sat 09-Mar-13 08:06:39

No. Like others here I think it's an infringement of privacy, sexist and bloody rude.

People take jobs for many reasons and how would the employer react if the the woman said: "no, but I am only working here to save up for my one year off back packing round the world."

It's just a way of singling out women and using maternity as a stick to beat them with.

If an em

ThePskettiIncident Sat 09-Mar-13 08:08:01

Oops, posted too early.

If an employer wants to support its parents and potential parents, it should focus on providing good framework and policy for maternity/paternity leave and champion flexible working.

Xenia Sat 09-Mar-13 08:17:08

When, when when will people realise children have two parents? If 30 years my children's father could choose their nanny, be as involved as I was (I ended up earning 10x what he did) surely in 2013 men can be as equally involved? A man has to find childcare. A man has to arrange who will look after his children and pay for it. Not all women want to take 12 months off when a baby comes and plenty cannot afford it. I took 2 weeks. There is no legal or moral requirement on women to be the ones at home.

I always mentioned it in interviews myself. In fact I was recruited 5 months pregnant with a one year old having worked full time since she was 2 weeks and with a stable regular good daily nanny. I was quite happy to talk about it. However it would have to be raised in a gender neutral way and so as not to make some women think they look too old you'd have to ask them up to about age 60 in case they were planning IVF in their 50s. I think a more appropriate question as someone who has also had two elderly parents with needs is whether there is anything in your personal life which might interfere with your job.

No wonder more and more women found their own businesses and out earn men. Much more fun and then what yo do is your own look out. If I want to have IVF triplets using a surrogate when I turn 60 that would be my choice as I won rather than be someone's employee.

HappyJustToBe Sat 09-Mar-13 08:17:23

My friend told her employer in interview she didn't intend to have children (knowing they couldn't ask) because of her DSC. She then got pregnant, had a miscarriage and realised she wanted a baby desperately and is TTC.

Even without the discrimination issue and the fact it is none of their business what would they achieve? My friend didn't lie but a year into employment her wishes have changed. The only way to avoid things like this is not to employ women.

HappyJustToBe Sat 09-Mar-13 08:19:09

Or decent men who take their responsibilities seriously.

WinterMymble Sat 09-Mar-13 08:23:18

INCREDIBLY sexist. Have to ask men too - and frankly the whole asking is only to benefit employers - and really isn't thought through since plans don't necessarily mean timing or DCs will happen, certainly on schedules....

EvenIfYouSeeAPoppy Sat 09-Mar-13 08:32:00

Sexist, intrusive, inappropriate, arrogant.
An organisation that realises it needs its employees, and it not simply doing them a big favour, and understands that people whose lives and commitments outside work are respected will be more productive, would not or should not think of asking such questions.
I've worked in both that kind of organisation and the other kind. No prizes for guessing which job I fled from as soon as I could, taking my not inconsiderable and pretty specialised skills with me.

rhondajean Sat 09-Mar-13 09:14:18

There is absolutely no way this should be asked. Ignoring the illegality of it at present, if someone is the best candidate for teh job they remain the best candidate for the job regardless.

What of the people who take a job as a stepping stone and stay for a year then move on permanently?

Unless you can afford - and want to! -hire a surrogate there is no option except for women to have children. Men are physically incapable. They should not be penalised for it. I'm always furious stunned by the posters on here who tell women they must tell they are pregnant at interviews. Until men are told the same and treated in the same way for becoming/planning to become parents it's utterly wrong.

It's also part of this subscription to the idea that having children will make women less valuable employees while men won't be affected or will work harder and THAT is something we as women need to do something about. I know in my personal experience that having children made me determined to work harder than ever, firstly to set a good example and secondly in order to ensure I could be financially stable on my own for their sake, if it was ever needed for any reason.

It will only really become fair when maternity leave can be equally split, and commonly is split, between mothers and fathers. (so not really maternity, more parental leave then).

Another point - what if women are in a same sex relationship? Their plans to have a child could be utterly irrelevant to the employer as they may not be the one who carries the child - but the employer wouldn't be allowed to ask that would they?

williaminajetfighter Sat 09-Mar-13 09:37:50

I have managed large teams of 30+ and found the biggest periods of staff absence are not mat leave but sick leave for stress and depression going off for 6-12 months then back, then off again, then back. Mat leave is far easier to manage and has less impact on the organisation.

At interview Should we be asking candidates about their mental state or how robust they are as well??!!

Xenia Sat 09-Mar-13 09:48:57

I certainly found it was a huge selling point that I never had a day off sick and took 2 weeks of annual holiday to have a baby in and then go back full time. It worked wonderfully for my career and the children and endured a non sexist set up at home too and I saw no reason not to mention that to employers in interviews. If you take 2 weeks off to have a baby in and this part time work is dreadful and bad for women and their families and have a stable nanny who stays 10 years and indeed are a feminist whose income is the family's prime income it can be a good idea to mention it. When recruited at 5 months' pregnant I was certainly more than happy to raise it at interview and I got the job too.

I agree with willami mentioning sickness records as more important. Some of us whether we have babies or not never have a day's sick in our lives and others are whingeing skivers who are off work at the drop of a hat. Employers are wise to look for fit healthy stoics who are tough, whatever their sex. Also some women are married to sexist men as it were who think women take time off if children are ill. Non sexist marriages don't work like that so it can be helpful for an employer to know you are not married to a man who sees your career as pin money and never lifts a finger.

It can work the other way too - my children's father's female teacher colleagues were allowed to leave school early and he had to stay later even though he was primarily responsible for getting home to let the nanny go at 6lm, not I.

ohforfoxsake Sat 09-Mar-13 09:54:35

It pisses me off that you've even asked the question. Especially on here.

Until we have more women in senior roles, positions of power and proper equality in the workplace, then asking the question will always put women in a dangerous position. Let's take yet another massive leap backwards shall we?

ohforfoxsake Sat 09-Mar-13 10:05:35

And don't forget to ask about ageing parents. Women remain the main carers for the elderly, so worth asking if they are likely to die at any point in your career.

KristinaM Sat 09-Mar-13 11:27:59

My friend, a school teacher, confided in her head of department that she and her Dh were TTC. She was then given the worst classes and she didn't get promoted. After 7 years of TTc, infertility treatment, adoption assessment and approval, they finally adopted a baby. She was off work for ONE TERM -stopped work at Easter and when back to work full time after the summer holiday ( no adoption leave then, it was all unpaid ) .her DH went part time as he earned less.

Her career was irrevocably damaged by her notifying her employer of her plans.

flatmum Sat 09-Mar-13 11:28:43

The very title of this thread is yet more discrimination <bored of it now>

why only ask the women? Many families share childcare responsibilities 50/50 now.

I just got a new job at a City bank and no one has asked me my age or whther I have/plan to have children. Which is how it should be. How I manage my personal life is my own affair. If it impinges on my work life or stops me doing my job (it won't) - get rid of me.

KristinaM Sat 09-Mar-13 11:30:22

My BIL has been off work for months after a heart bypass. He was a heavy smoker and drinker. Maybe his employer should have asked him about his lifestyle ? So they could have helped him plan his career around his heart disease.

thaliablogs Sat 09-Mar-13 12:02:54

I think it shows just how difficult the situation is now that all the responses to the title are negative, seeing it as potentially reducing women's chances and being discriminatory. I read it in a much more positive light - potentially, assuming it was used in the right way.

We know that women are much more likely to return from maternity leave and stay in work after they have children if they are in a rewarding, interesting job before they go on leave, e.g., with early managerial responsibility. They are also more likely to be successful in the long term if they are sponsored by someone more senior - something that tends to happen more easily for men as there are simply more senior men around. (Realise this is slanted towards families where there are some options in terms of balance of work etc).

So having the conversation a few years before someone goes on leave helps create a more successful long term path and encourages them to see work as "worth it."

Now you could say, just do this for everyone and you don't need to ask about plans, which Lso has the downside everyone else has shared. I guess I'd just like companies to be doing it at all, so I can see ms sandberg's point. But more than that, I'm sorry we're in such a state that even suggesting this is seen as overwhelmingly negative.

MarshaBrady Sat 09-Mar-13 12:05:43

No. Who knows how long this planned for family will take to happen anyway.

Snowylady Sat 09-Mar-13 13:28:20

Managers at my place ask it because we don't have family friendly policies - something I DON'T support!

But....if it was asked to be helpful - to know if the parent had children or were planning on having them (hence at an interview they can discuss the measures they could agree to from a flexible working stance) and hence the job seeker and Company can make an informed decision. I also think it is helpful if a parent did ask their employer at an interview, or prior to going off on maternity leave - the reply received could save a lot of heartache and hassle in the long run if everyone is open (i.e. no flexible working requests that take an age only to be refused, or a hire that doesn't work out).

Sadly, most companies aren't in the latter category, so no, they shouldn't be allowed to ask as it would be a leading question to not hire / manage someone out!

elastamum Sat 09-Mar-13 14:42:25

Cant believe you are asking this hmm

It is blatantly discriminatory and if anyone in my workplace was asked this by HR or their line manager I would be absolutley furious.

Snowylady Sat 09-Mar-13 15:32:59

Elastamum it is blatantly discriminatory (no disagreements there!) but I think it would make everyones lives so much easier if employees and employers could openly discuss. I've heard in the past that new joiners wanted to ask what the maternity policy was before they joined a new job but obviously couldn't. They weren't planning on having a baby immediately but maybe in a few years and were planning on their next move being the job they worked in for a few years before they started ttc. Flexible working ideas could be discussed way in advance etc etc. Of course this isn't real life and that is why the equality act exists...but if the Company was forward thinking and open.....things would be so much easier. I say this as an HR professional who forbids managers from ever asking anything like this but this is with my practical hat on!!

blondieminx Sat 09-Mar-13 15:58:02


I agree with AThingInYourLife.

The ConDems family policies all suck (especially the ratios thing).

badinage Sat 09-Mar-13 16:17:14

I'm wondering whether when MNHQ posted this, they actually realised this proposal is against the law? It took another poster to point out that there was no proposal to ask men about their prospective fatherhood or life plans.

It might also have been better to produce the full extract of what MNHQ described as a 'report' as I'm guessing a senior exec. of a global organisation does know the laws of the countries they trade in and therefore the report was more nuanced than this suggests.

I also think if this was an organisation with a good reputation towards women, the debate would have been different, while still pointing out that discrimination is unlawful.

I'm guessing she is referencing the USA in her book. Does anyone know what the law is there??

Snowylady Sat 09-Mar-13 16:54:35

The US is the same as the UK to my knowledge - they have sex discrimination laws too that make it unlawful to discriminate against an individual due to their gender.

I think the point the COO is making that she knows she shouldn't ask, but it would make it easier for the employee and employer to ask the question. We all know that that question should be asked to anyone - male or female. I am not sure if Facebook is openly family friendly in terms of their HR policies - if they are then I read it the context that it is a positive comment - it means the employer-employee relationship can be so much open. If they aren't well, then I guess it could be construed as a negative i.e. they are hiring women and then they go off on maternity leave etc etc.

Snowylady Sat 09-Mar-13 16:55:51

Sorry, correction: ...that question shouldn't be asked to anyone - male or female...ooops!

Shallishanti Sat 09-Mar-13 17:10:36

Have not read the whole thread, so sorry if it's been said already, but I'm fairly sure that would be illegal, wouldn't it?
Doesn't the Equalities Act apply? It woud be treating people with a protected characteristic less favourably.

ZombiesAreClammyDodgers Sat 09-Mar-13 17:29:15

A big fat no. Unless men are going to be asked the same thing, and judged equally on the basis of the answer. Thank god for the Equality Act.

RB68 Sat 09-Mar-13 19:54:42

I think we have to remember the equality thing is better in the UK than say the US for women/men/family situation.

Having said that was sat in an interview with three old farts (yes local councillors) for a part time 25hrs a month job and they asked me about my family, I did a bit of a double take then asked them what exactly they wanted to know, he coudn't explain it so I said yes I had one and couldn't think of anything else, only fumed afterwards when I asked myself exactly what was the relevance to the job!!! I can bet they wouldn't have asked any male applicants oh wait there wouldn't have been any unless a retired bean counter, grrrr

As to the point about having the convo - I think it has to be applied equally these days at whatever lifestage/sexual orientation - after all you can have kids at 60 if you REALLY want to. But by having the convo would it make any difference to the job or how it was done - if not then its not a relevant convo is it

jchocchip Sat 09-Mar-13 21:46:21


ICutMyFootOnOccamsRazor Sat 09-Mar-13 23:44:40

If someone asked me about this in interview I'd be incandescent. In fact, I'd tell them to stick their job where the sun don't shine.

a) I don't care if they're asking both men and women, it's none of their damn business

b) why ask, if you're not planning to discriminate on the basis of the answer and

c) the answer can change form day to day anyway, depending on a whole host of circumstances, so it's a meaningless exercise.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sun 10-Mar-13 02:57:33

No, of course not.

But I think msrisotto has a point. SS may be looking at this from a perspective of a senior woman at a young organisation only - I imagine Facebook do want to keep her and would work with her and other male or female senior employees to accommodate any external plans or responsibilities (for example, a sabbatical or whatever)

But there's absolutely no way that can or should be generalised to all people in all roles in all companies.

An illegal and pointless question. As many have pointed out, plans to TTC don't always translate into a timely, viable pregnancy. You can't do workforce planning around a hope to conceive, however, as many have pointed out, organisations have p,entry of advance warning about absence in regard to mat leave, but not many choose to use it.

also maternity leave is a right. not something you have to negotiate. the law covers it and the only point to a 'discussion' is to try and circumnavigate the law. it offers nothing for the woman that is not already meant to be offered.

MammyKaz Sun 10-Mar-13 08:32:43

It is not any of their business. What exactly do they think they can plan? As has been said many times we do not necessarily have absolute control over when we get pregnant so often despite our best planning it doesn't work as we would like.

Ime I had 3 mc's, a new manager came in at this point & immediately ignored me - presumably because he expected me to get pg, which thankfully I did the following month. He continued to ignore my efforts, then whilst i was on ML my role was changed which made returning part-time impossible (we had discussed this prior to ml - I was open & honest about that!). I was offered a crappy pt role totally under my level with barely a proper remit. I was subsequently made redundant.

So they knew my plans, they had time to plan, I had time to plan. Where did that get us?!

So long as employers & managers do not value their female staff for all they offer, regardless of time out for children, this isn't a discussion it's ammunition.

"Unless you can afford - and want to! -hire a surrogate there is no option except for women to have children"

Exactly. And yet both man and woman (in general) gain the benefit of being parents. So not only are there biological inequalities (which is inevitable) there seems to be a call that women should also be penalised in their career. For men to become fathers. Fuck that.
Why has mnhq not been back? I have to say if this wasn't an mnhq thread I'd almost suspect trolling!
Where I work seems to have no problems being flexible for parents (I assume otherwise too but too small to tell, but we are all parents of small children). Men as well as women take the hit when kids are ill or it's sports day etc. the person who has just come back from mat leave and works part time is regularly still in the office at 7, pops in on her non working days, takes work home. As the other woman in the team I'm the one who works until midnight, also works weekends etc. they get back what they put into their staff.

Xenia Sun 10-Mar-13 10:22:50

As I said I always raised it because my having children did not interfere with the work and if the employee chooses to raise it and explain she takes 2 weeks holiday to have babies in and goes back full time and has a brilliant long term nanny and a non sexist marriage at home where by if the children are sick the husband is the first call for child care... all that is a selling point so say it and sell yourself. If you are a constant skiver who is always off and with a sexist husband who would never in a month of Sundays take time off if your child was sick then you might well be more of a liability.

yes i feel bad about it in a way but as i'm good circumstances, and better than they might expect of a single parent, by having involved gps who are happy to go pick up ds if school calls saying he's ill and ok with me saying can you pick him up next tuesday because i'm on a conference in london etc i did bring it up myself. you know they are judging your family circumstances so if you are in a position to reassure then you do yourself a favour by doing so.

however the reason i feel bad is that by doing so i'm effectively encouraging the idea of women with children being problematic or needing to justify themselves.

the thing is though i really wanted to let them know that i was flexible and being flexible pays dividends for me because i get to totally manage my own hours and have flexibility from them too when i actually need it.

the reality is there are actually few jobs where it isn't possible to be flexible and most women tend to be so grateful for being allowed that flexibility that they give twice as much back in many ways and become very loyal employees. sadly lots of employers don't see that and fear their employees having any kind of control over their own hours and work.

we don't need HR depts asking women about their family plans we need employers waking up to the value of flexible, more autonomous working (obviously with accountability) for all of their staff.

Yes saf. I have mentioned to my boss that I don't plan more children in general conversation about families and backgrounds. If I thought she wanted to know officially I would lie. Fact is if I did get pregnant I would probably keep the baby. And apparently dh and I spent over two years having unprotected sex which we weren't aware of so it could have happened.

RedToothBrush Sun 10-Mar-13 10:39:43

No way.

I've been trying to get a job for two years and its stressful enough. I've been asked dubious questions at interview, which are legal but I did feel were stepping into territory I wasn't comfortable with. I may have finally got a new job and it has been been a huge concern to me, as we are considering starting a family in the near future.

It means that women might need to discuss if they are infertile. Or discuss any other problems they might have. Or it might put them under pressure if they are ttc. Or lots of other very intrusive and very personal information. At interview stage.

Given the number of interviews I've been for, the thought of having to do this repeatedly...

The emotional stress of having to do this, and the worry of just how much this could affect you is enormous.

And yeah men would not be asked this and even if they were it could be used to their advantage rather than disadvantage (someone who is 'settled' but doesn't need to take maternity leave is even more attractive to an employer than someone who is single and more likely to change jobs frequently to advance their career).

yes a while 'after' i got the job there was a jokey remark from my boss about how i better not go and get pregnant now as he's had enough of women announcing they're pregnant of late. from him tbf it was jokey and he knows i'm rather determinedly single and glad to be out of the pre school years and yep, i did take the opportunity to reassure that definitely wasn't on any cards i was aware of.

in this job i think even if i did get pregnant i'd happily work right up to the birth and pretty much straight away again afterwards if possible anyway as i like my job, it's flexible and we have a nursery with staff subsidies on site which would be heaven - would LOVE to be at work and pop over to the nursery to bf, have a cuddle then get back to my office. now if every workplace was like that....??

slightlysoupstained Sun 10-Mar-13 10:47:56

Haven't seen this on the thread so far, but is there any more info about the context? Was Sandberg talking about at interview, or during appraisals, planning for the year ahead, etc?

Still think it's pretty naive - the UK has far more employment protection than the US (google "at will" employment) but I think it's still something like 30,000 women a year get sacked/made redundant due to pregnancy.

In an ideal world, yes, it would be possible to go into an end of year review and say you're planning to start TTC so maybe it's worth recruiting that extra member of staff now, rather than next year. But guess what - you can already do that.

If the conversation isn't currently being started by the woman, then that's because she has reason to fear it will not be career enhancing. The cure for that isn't to allow employers to force the issue by enabling them to bring it up, it's for employers to make it so damn clear by their actions that it won't have a negative effect on your career that their female employees start bringing it up unprompted.

RedToothBrush Sun 10-Mar-13 10:56:32

saf, my previous employer would frequently make remarks like that, again in jest. It was part of the reason that I feel aggrieved about the job; his attitude to women got progressively worse - especially when his relationship with his partner(s) broke down. I was there for a very long time but left under a cloud and felt bullied and forced out (I sought legal advice, but unfortunately it wasn't in my best interests to pursue even though I had a good case).

Being honest about it, the prospect of getting pregnant and working there is one I feel relieved not to have to face. Having to talk about this in advance or being in a situation where its is expected that you should do this and then having to explain why you have got pregnant accidentally and be resented for 'not following procedure' is not something I would relish with someone who has already expressed a negative view like that - jokey or otherwise. Even though it was jokey, it made me feel deeply uncomfortable.

yeah different person and i would have felt uncomfortable. my boss is gay (no personal axes to grind with exes etc), big into non discrimination, speaks proudly of his feminist mother and i know in reality he'd be very supportive of me if i had another child. i'm in a far from typical situation work wise though and well aware of it.

i've had previous incredibly negative employers and colleagues. this is actually the first time in my life i've really liked my line manager and wanted to continue working with them. to the point i keep 'joking' about how our exit strategy should be going into the consultancy business together.

in an ideal world women could trust their employers, line managers and colleagues and have open discussions but we don't live in that world and HR putting people on the spot with intrusive questions would do the opposite of helping the situation.

Xenia Sun 10-Mar-13 11:57:57

And in an ideal world it would not be assumed women give up work or go part time when they have children and as many men would do that as women. The fat is most women marry up and earn less than their man and go part time or give up work when children are born and their money is often very littler or pin money.I wish that were not so.

If you recruit a woman like I am who earns 10x what her husband does, who can say yes if a chidl is sick it is always husband who will deal with it and i have worked for 10 years without breaks and am never sick that is a huge selling point if you are male or female. If instead you earn £6k a year and your husband £40k and he leaves everything related to children to you and if you lost the £6k the family would manage fine and you have a record of often being off sick and your career is not very important to the family then things are different.

Anyway I think it's right the questions may not be asked. If they are asked they must be asked of men,. In fact it's very important women ask male colleagues when their wife is pregnant who will be looking after the baby to challenge male assumptions and to help men understand they are moving to a culture where if the man takes 6 months off that's fine. My daughter's boss recently took her maternity leave (3 months?) and then her husband took 6 months. Employers are seeing more men taking time off and that's a good thing for gender equality.

BeckAndCall Sun 10-Mar-13 12:49:23

Seems like I've missed several days of one of the most thought provoking threads in a long time.

As I recall, Ms Sandberg was speaking at a US state department (might have been US treasury actually - not sure which dept) sponsored discussion on women in the workplace and the comment taken was form a much wider context in the discussion. It was the week before Davos and I think the subject was then reprised there.

I only read a write up after the fact, obviously I wasntinvited! But I believe her point was that by being up front companies could then accommodate workers' desire to achieve a balance of home and work life. I think she was being pragmatic in saying 'women' as in my experience ( but I'm over 50) it generally is the women who do most of the child care in two parent working families. I have taken many days off over 20 years to look after sick children - my DH has only had a handful of days off.

True, Ms Sandberg is in a fortunate position of being able to make the rules where she works but she famously leaves the office at 4.30 to go and spend time at home before working again through the evening.

I don't think having the debate is a bad idea - only by talking out loud can opinion be heard.

flatmum Sun 10-Mar-13 13:22:46

So what if women (or men) take the odd day off to look after sick kids. If you're in an office job there is no reason why you couldn't work remotely for a day - possibly slightly compromised if the kid was actually being sick (I've run a conference call whilst holding a sick bucket) but when they are ill they normally sleep most of the time or lie on the sofa - and even if you cant do a full day of effort - like most women on here, I would then be working all evening.

Ok if you work in a shop or meet clients then this is not quite so easy but for most office based jobs it is perfectly acceptable to work from home now and again, write reports, catch up on paperwork etc if a child is sick. Both me and my DP have done this without issue. It is this kind of acceptability/flexibility that is needed imo - not trying to scare women out of the workplace if/when they have children.

I tell you what, I am a damn sight better employee now that I have children and am a working parent - because like most on here I suspect, I would literally bend over backwards to keep all the plates spinning and often work evenings and weekends to demonstrate my flexibility. I would literally work all night just so as not to give anyone the chance to say having children was impacting on my job. I am also now bloody good at multi-tasking and getting the job done. When I was childless and in my twenties it was down tools at 5pm and off out clubbing/partying = unproductive hangover day the next day.

Employers are stupid imo if they don't make a few flexibility concessions in order to be able to take advantage of this growing band of highly-motivated, experienced, dedicated professional women who just happen to have children.

MammyKaz Sun 10-Mar-13 15:34:18

Most people accept a job or enjoy their job in large part because of their managers. Are we then in return able to ask what their plans are regarding starting a family? After all you may not wish to work for a boss who plans to have two MLs in quick succession (male or female). But I'm thinking that wouldn't be welcomed & deemed inappropriate wink

hear hear flatmum. I work from home most of the time. DD was sick on Monday so I couldn't take her to childcare. So I worked from home figured out what I'd managed to achieve and told my boss I'd done about half a day, so took half a day leave. She accepted it without any questions. I have a deadline to meet by a week on Tuesday I'll do a couple of hours this afternoon, and will be working 14/15 hour days Tuesday and Wednesday of this week to get everything done. I honestly feel that it's a fair swap for having such flexible working conditions.

notcitrus Sun 10-Mar-13 16:13:35

At my work people agree that paternity leave is far the worst to plan for - you get at least 3 months notice for mat leave, a couple for people quitting, holidays planned to some.extent and usually only a week, but paternity leave is a fortnight, but no idea when over a 3 month period. Even sick leave tends to be better to plan round.

slightlysoupstained Sun 10-Mar-13 17:25:40

Just spotted this article from yesterday - I think this is response enough in itself, isn't it?

slightlysoupstained Sun 10-Mar-13 17:26:09
ReluctantBeing Sun 10-Mar-13 17:28:32

I think they should. I have seen the damage caused to children's education when teachers are off on maternity leave.

SuffolkNWhat Sun 10-Mar-13 17:33:35

Damn those pesky teachers for daring to breed without express permission from the PTA hmm

5madthings Sun 10-Mar-13 17:36:36

Rubbish reluctant if the school handles it correctly and plans appropriately there is no damage caused to a child's education. Maternity leave as others gave said is far easier to plan for than an employee who gives off sick etc. A teacher friend of mine has been off for cancer treatment, very short notice and much harder to plan for, are they going to start asking if people have a family history if cancer or a lifestyle that predisposes them to cancer or heart disease?!

TheFallenMadonna Sun 10-Mar-13 17:46:51

Actually, it can be very difficult to cover a maternity leave adequately. If you teach a shortage subject, it's very hard to find a temporary replacement (we have the same problem covering long term absence). And the contract allows one week's notice on both sides. I have both taken maternity leave and returned to teaching after a career break by covering a maternity leave. Of course women should not be discriminated against when it comes to maternity leave, but it is not always possible to ensure there is no impact on the pupils when it happens. Unfortunately.

Xenia Sun 10-Mar-13 17:56:59

My view is that it is often best for everyone o take 2 weeks off. I don't want women to feel they have to take long periods off if they don't want to. As they only get 6 weeks on 90% pay and then it plummets to sums which do not cover the mortgage for most then 6 weeks with perhaps 2 week holiday tacked on is about the most many family can manage and works out very well and can even benefit the child.

SuffolkNWhat Sun 10-Mar-13 18:01:20

Not all of us can afford a nanny though Cenia and birth complications can make your 2 week time frame unworkable for some.

I'm really pleased it worked that way for you but I enjoyed my ML withy DD but then again I'm one of those work shy teachers who gives no thought to anyone but myself when I got knocked up.

SuffolkNWhat Sun 10-Mar-13 18:02:06

Who also has autocorrect that hates her, please excuse all typos!

5madthings Sun 10-Mar-13 18:05:07

It can also take much longer than two weeks to establish bfeeding, not all women can express even if they want to and not all babies will take a bottle or settle into a pattern of feeding that is compatible with a mum expressing etc.

the fallen yes it can be difficult to get cover but at least with maternity leave you get notice unlike with illness.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

flatmum Sun 10-Mar-13 18:14:56

And many companies pay 6 months full pay for maternity leave. I took 9 months (6 months full pay 3 months statutory) with all of mine and don't apologise for o regret it at all) it worked out very nicely as, as others have said, my employers had over 6 months notice each time and various contractors are still thanking me now for the employment opportunities to cover my mat leaves. At 9 month the children were all weaned, settled, reflux issues under control etc and a good time to start nursery IMO as old enough to settle well but not clingy toddlers yet. This worked fine for me and my employers.

ReluctantBeing Sun 10-Mar-13 18:15:36

Yes, in an ideal world maternity absences would be handled well with minimal disruption. Sadly, they very rarely are, and it is hard to find decent short-term cover.

5madthings Sun 10-Mar-13 18:15:52

lunatic when I had ds1 I was at uni and I tried to go back when he was three wks old, I was able to leave him with dp and could express easily but he wouldn't take a bottle and he just screamed the whole time I was away sad and my boobs were huge and uncomfortable, plus I was still suffering from SPD and recovering from a nasty episiotomy, I lasted a fortnight and then took a year out and went back when he was 13mths old, much better. Those early weeks were really stressful ad I was trying to study, express etc and do was really hands on and did loads but it just wasn't worth the stress.

5madthings Sun 10-Mar-13 18:16:34

That's not the fault of the women taking maternity leave tho reluctant

ReluctantBeing Sun 10-Mar-13 18:24:01

No, it isn't. I am a teacher who has taken maternity leave in the paste, by the way.

MoreBeta Sun 10-Mar-13 18:33:50

According to Wikipedia:

"Her executive compensation for FY 2011 was $300,000 base salary plus $30,491,613 in FB shares.[15] According to her Form 3, she also owns 38,122,000 stock options and restricted stock units (worth approx. $1.45 billion as of mid-May 2012) that will be completely vested by May 2022, subject to her continued employment through the vesting date. [16]

In 2012 she became the eighth member (and the first female member) of Facebook's board of directors.[17]

In October 2012, Business Insider reported that stock units (appx. 34 million) vested in Sandberg's name accounted for nearly $790,000,000. Facebook withheld roughly 15 million of those stocks for tax reasons which left Sandberg with a neighborhood of nearly $417,000,000."

An incredibly wealthy and powerful woman who has already had children (2) effectively telling other much less powerful and much less wealthy women that they should be prepared to answer questions about plans for a family.

No. Is a complete sentence.

hugoagogo Sun 10-Mar-13 19:19:02

I cannot believe that we are even discussing this.

Of course they should not ask.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

5madthings Sun 10-Mar-13 19:49:20

Thanks smile its hard trying to balance everything, I am I pressed by those that do go back to work when babies are little, I couldn't do it. Everyone told me it would be easy ad. Babies just sleep all the time,....ha ha ha ha and I think the assumption was if I took a year out I wouldn't go back. That assumption by family, friends etc actually made me bloody determined to prove them wrong! grin and I was then able to enjoy that first year with ds1 without worrying about my degree.

I am sure its possible for some women to go back to work asap and that's great for those that want to, but i don't think it should be the expectation/default. Women need time to recover and to establish bfeeding if that what they want etc.

5madthings Sun 10-Mar-13 19:50:08


TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sun 10-Mar-13 19:53:09

Good post MoreBeta.

FadBook Mon 11-Mar-13 08:53:02

An incredibly wealthy and powerful woman who has already had children (2) effectively telling other much less powerful and much less wealthy women that they should be prepared to answer questions about plans for a family

No. Is a complete sentence

^^ This sums it up to me.

Xenia Mon 11-Mar-13 09:17:04

1. They should not be asjked or else everyone should be asked the general question are their circumstances outside work (you keep a horse, compete for England, live with two demented parents, have 10 dogs or whatever) that may interfere with your work. Such a general question would have to be asked of men and women as plenty of men earn secondary money in a family with the wife earning more and if a child is sick the man does the childcare as woman's career comes first in a good few marriages these days. Not all women marry sexist men.

2. I mention the 2 weeks not because I think every woman should take it but I think some younger girls are almost conditioned into a kind of sexism by society and the convenience of husbands to take very very liong leaves and think if they don't take a year they have somehow failed. I just want them to realise if you feel up to it (and it is hugely easier at a desk in an office than managing as we had at one stage a 3 year old, 1 year old and a brand new baby which is just about the hardest work on the planet for most of us who cannot afford not to work and have help) go back sooner as it solves a lot of problems, financial, sexism at home, gets the baby used to a routine etc.

3. I much more enjoyed breastfeeding the twins when I worked for myself and they were brought to me at home to feed by our nanny. It is not fun expressing at work but it's not for long and if it means your life is on the whole better I found it a small price worth paying.

4. Try to pick work where you can work for yourself ultimately. My advice to the children is that too. It is much better to own than be someone's employee. It gives you more power and control and you can even then employ women and trust them to get work done in whatever manner you feel works. Someone who does work for me with a baby is even now doing that from abroad which is working well.

The bottom line is if you are very very good at your job and utterly reliable and indeed try to be one of the best at it in the UK employers will bend over backwards to keep you. If you hardly put in the hours are a bit of a skiver, off sick at every excuse, hate the work and your family mostly reply on male earnings you probably won't do so well at work.

Xenia Mon 11-Mar-13 09:18:57

On the physical side I was lucky not to be ill so could work until in labour. I genuinely did not find being in work at 2 weeks was particularly hard. I never had a C section however. Also sitting on the train without 3 under 4s pulling at you and making demands is hugely restful. Going to work and being treated as an adult, respected and looked after by people at work is much much easier than minding three under 4s.

Obviously it depends on your job and health as to when you go back.

We also had two nannies go on maternity leave too which allows you to see things from the other side.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Mon 11-Mar-13 12:43:22

Xenia, did you share your plans when TTC your first child?

I suspect a lot of people would still say, "ah, you'll have to see how you feel once baby's here" to a first-timer's plans to return after two weeks.

Besides, they wouldn't (couldn't under current law) hold you to it so would have to plan as if you hadn't said it.

MoreBeta Mon 11-Mar-13 14:55:04

Sheryl Sandberg has a new book out a few days ago called 'Lean In. She has also been all over the business news. This article from Business Insider is fairly typical of the coverage.

One quote I picked up on was this:

" .... she defends her message that women should take more responsibility for their own success by saying, "I'm not blaming women" but "there's an awful lot we can do."

I also note the article mentions she is in the top '1%' of the population.

Sorry but as a bloke married to a professional woman and having worked in the City I know full well how men in powerful positions talk about and undermine women's efforts. It is not women's fault they are not running top corporations. It is men's fault. It really is.

Xenia Mon 11-Mar-13 17:24:50

The D. No way. As I'm not fat nothing ever showed much until about 5 months pregnant so I told no one at work until then for all kinds of reasons - I wasn't ill so didn't want a fuss made; money; my principles; not their business. I suspect when I said I would be back in 2 weeks' time the first time they did not believe me.

Women can take some responsibility. Plenty of us go off and work for ourselves and generate our own work which is lots of fun and I recommend it. I feel at the moment being nearly 30 years into my working life with perhaps 20 - 30 years more to go, that it is the perfect life actually.

i find myself perversely tempted to tell my boss i'm pregnant and see how he reacts. possibly not a good idea eh? would be interesting though grin

Bugsylugs Wed 13-Mar-13 07:39:23

Have not read all the thread.
I was asked I was less than honest with my answer got the job. Would not have if i had told the : - ( When I told them they quoted back what I had said to assistant practice manager. Then made my life v miserable sent me on visits that ere dangerous. This was a Drs surgery and at least 2 of the partners needed IVF to conceive. Moved jobs as soon as I could.

Would like to point out they appointed a locum for my maternity leave which was fully covered by the PCT

Bugsylugs Wed 13-Mar-13 07:42:52

Sorry for typos

josiejay Wed 13-Mar-13 08:03:48

I disagree for many reasons. furstly, even if you did ask men and wonen the same question, the outcome would be massively discriminatory against women. The assumption is that men only take short periods if paternity leave so employers don't really care whether they have kids or not (in fact you often hear people talking about how Bill or whoever is a real family man, meaning it as a don't often hear the same said about women in the workplace!)
Also, erm people sometimes get pregnant by accident - will they be accused of being liars if they haven't told their employer?
Women have babies. Fact. It isn't a crime and it doesn't mean you can't make a really positive contribution to your employer and the economy. But the implication of what this woman is suggesting is that we are somehow being selfish by trying to work and have babies. That attitude makes me bloody furious and just because its a woman saying it does not make it any less misogynistic.

flatmum Wed 13-Mar-13 08:04:30

More beta, i could not agree with you more. I've been in the city for 15 years and you are so right. I am constantly appalled how a certain type of bloke will undermine women at every opportunity and bitch about them behind their backs, especially any women with any kind of power. Unfortunately pregnancy and mat leave is a gift to these people, particularly if they have any power.

The truly appalling thing is many of them have young young daughters. I have had to say to one dikhed who asked me if "I had considered moving into customer services when you come back from mat leave" (work in highly specialised technical area), do you want your daughter to be treated like this (many other incidents and undermining attempts) when she's in the workplace?

It's not all men and I do see small positive signs that it is slowly changing, but you're so right, women's biggest problem in the workplace is not that they biologically have to have children, but is still men.

everyone notice how this thread was dropped from the top of active and replaced with one on 1 in 7 women made redundant after maternity leave?

Trills Wed 13-Mar-13 08:36:03

Threads generally get un-stickied after a certain number of days unless a company is paying for them to stay at the top.

Xenia Wed 13-Mar-13 09:04:53

It is certainly another issue. If you adore your work and don't take much time off you are more likely to be kept on. I am not a huge fan of very long maternity leaves for women who want to do very well at work and earn a lot of money. I am not sure they are good for anyone - babies, families, relationships, women or employers although I am sure 3 months off whilst keeping in touch and may be doing a bit of work from home can be okay. 6 months I think is getting a bit much in jobs where you are a success as most people need continuously to keep up to date in their field and maintain their business relationships with customers which cannot just be frozen in aspic for 12 months.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Wed 13-Mar-13 09:54:22

Sure Xenia, but maternity and paternity leave legal allowance has to be the same across the board, interesting job or not.

The nurseries near me only take babies at three months. If you went off two weeks before your EDD and then were two weeks overdue, you'd be a bit stuffed if your ML was only three months. Not everyone can afford a nanny.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Wed 13-Mar-13 09:55:41

... Having said that, now of course you can share leave after twenty weeks so that would help.

TryDrawing Wed 13-Mar-13 10:36:38

I work for a small technology company. I'm the only woman here of childbearing age and that is no accident. My boss is quite open about the fact that he doesn't want to employ women who might have children. He only employs me because I have quite an unusual set of skills that he would be hard pushed to find elsewhere.

I don't agree with my boss' stance on this. But I don't know what it would take to change his mind. He sees that, in a small company, any absence hurts his business. Until I got pg the first time, he assumed that companies have to pay SMP themselves. I basically had to sit him down and give him a seminar in maternity issues (awkward).

I was not in a fit state to work until dd was about 9 months old. I would not have been worth my salary.

I think the thing that disturbs me about Sheryl Sandbery's comments are that she makes them in the context of a US company and women in the US don't even have a decent maternity leave/pay entitlement. If companies there are worried about employing women who might take shock 6 weeks off, we're not going to convince companies here to employ women fairly and equally with men. Maybe we just have to find ways to force them to.

RedToothBrush Wed 13-Mar-13 11:49:13

TryDrawing, I've had males friends tell me quite openly to my face, that they wouldn't consider employing me at the moment even knowing my ability and likely me, purely because I'm female, married and in my mid thirties. Its 'simply too much of a risk' and 'too much of a costly disruption'. Understandably its not done wonders for my confidence tbh. (Strangely, I've not spoken much to these friends since... can't think why).

I have been very conscious of the questions I've had asked at interview. Some have been bordering on dodgy ground and at least once I believe they have overstepped - it was only after the interview, I kicked myself for responding, even though they had said I didn't have to answer if I didn't want to (of course I felt I had to).

In all the interviews I've had, I've had very positive feedback and its obvious that I'm a clear second choice not far behind the person who eventually got the job. But I can't help wondering whether the deciding factor has been my ticking timebomb status.

Xenia Wed 13-Mar-13 11:54:43

Those women who only want to take a few weeks off therefore are in a sense tarred with the same brush by those who want to be off for 9 months to a year. it is not fair. It is other women damaging women who want to go back sooner. As so many women now take so long off (goodness knows how they all seem to be able to afford it) it means women's position at work is more and more damaged because the maternity leaves being taken are so long and that does damage business - we all know that. Okay may be Janice on a factory production line can be replaced but many jobs it is hugely disrupting to have someone off. Those of us who have employed nannies who go on maternity leave know how disrupting that can be too.

MoreBeta Wed 13-Mar-13 15:45:05

The reason women dont get to the top is because men deliberately stop them getting there. There is no other reason.

It is striking that Shery Sandberg appears not to have talked at all about the role that men play in the lack of promotion of women. I have not read her book so I apologise if she has said something but from what I have read elsewhere there appears to be little mention of men and their role.

Surely men are in power now and it is men who must begin to promote more women? I have not seen her challenge men in top jobs to step up to the plate on this issue. Why is she only talking about what women need to do - what about the men in power?

I once worked in a firm where the man who was Head of Dept systematically destroyed the career of every woman who reported to him. I was very junior but knew enough that he deliberately cut the bonuses, refused to promote, and eventually got rid of every single woman manager. He never recruited any women.

It was so blatant. Every single one of those women through no fault at all had their career damaged. They were all extremely good at their jobs. I worked for most of them on teams and they were much much better than the two male managers who I mainly worked for. Those two male managers also held very similar views about women as the Head of Dept. He naturally promoted them above all the female managers.

I do wonder over the years how many women have had their careers damaged and destroyed by those three men.

Most women don't realise how much the odds are stacked against them. They blame themselves or think they just have to try harder. If you came up against the three men I reported to in that firm you would have no chance. No matter how good you were or how hard you worked.

Believe me it is nothing to do with women being unwilling to 'lean in', or having babies or not asking for promotion and pay rises or being too assertive or not assertive enough or any of the other reasons that are cited. There is always a reason given as to why women dont get to the top. It is never true.

It is always a man in power that stops an ambitious, competent well qualified women from getting to the top.

MoreBeta Wed 13-Mar-13 15:45:55

SP: Sheryl

badguider Wed 13-Mar-13 15:52:26

If these conversations are had then there will be attendant pressure to plan to the nth degree and to conceive to plan.

I wasn't convinced it was the right time yet to ttc until the month we decided to go for it - and we were instantly successful. I can imagine it would be even worse the other way (with troubles ttc).

Can you imagine if i'd told my boss in November that children were on the cards but i wasn't really ready yet then had to report conception in mid December?

Thankfully i'm self employed (deliberately planned this way) so I can do a phased return to work which I plan to start very gently (0.5days a week) at 3mnths.

josiejay Wed 13-Mar-13 16:40:52

Xenia, I would never judge another woman's choice in the family and career balancing stakes. But if you're going to talk about women damaging other women, then I have to say that wearing a 2 week maternity leave as some sort of badge of honour is the real damaging behaviour here. If it works for you then fine but I think sensible medical advice would be to take much longer than that to allow your body to recover and of course if you choose to breastfeed then you need to be with your baby. Not to mention the other benefits of spending those precious first months together.
I have worked continuously since leaving Uni 10 years ago, except for 6 months maternity leave and a further 9 months I intend to take for the child I'm currently carrying. That's 15 months out of what will hopefully be a 45 year career. So I fail to see how that's somehow letting the side down.

i agree josie. i also agree with morebeta and note that xenia turned this around to 'women getting it wrong' when in reality it is very clear exactly what gets in the way of women. i too have seen managers who are the same as morebeta describes but they liked their pet women, the ones who'd make tea, bring the cakes in and never complain or expect promotion. any ambitious women expecting to be treated as equals were targeted and destroyed.

i'm not surprised when powerful women slate and blame other women. women who do well in the men's system don't do so through their sisterhood skills generally.

RedToothBrush Wed 13-Mar-13 18:05:48

Maybe men should be forcibly made to take longer periods of paternity leave.

I wonder what effect that might have to attitudes.

i suppose the only real thing that could make a difference is quotas but people don't tend to like that idea.

is it true paternity leave doesn't kick in till 20wks? that's a mistake i think that could be rectified straight off. if it kicked in from 4 weeks people would have more genuine choices about who would be the stay at home carer in the early days. why should it 'have' to be the woman for the first 5 months? it's like saying oh we'll say men can do a token bit too but it's still women's work really.

flatmum Wed 13-Mar-13 18:19:20

Beta, sadly I have to entirely agree with you again. Did you work for a bank by any chance? I have seen what you describe an you're right, it's so blatant. They force the women out because confident, clever, well-balanced women remind then if their own failings am inadequacies. Interestingly, all the male managers I have encountered like this had very bitter breakups or terrible relationships with women.behind them in their personal lives (not surprisingly really given what arseholes they were) and I often felt they came into work and took it out on the women under them who couldn't tell them to fuck off like their exes had.

This is getting slightly of topic but I entirely agree with you, maternity issues, women in senior positions are ALL symptoms of these men being in control. This is what hapenned to me and it takes a lot of self belief and sled confidence to come back from it (and set my career back years), many women just give up and become SAHMs. I console myself that these arseholes will soon be dead (invariably fat amd unhealthy) and I do see positive signs that the younger generation of men and women are on more of an equal footing. My boys certainly won't ever treat women that way I have been treated, by some.

flatmum Wed 13-Mar-13 20:25:12

lack of women in senior positions

MoreBeta Wed 13-Mar-13 21:35:16

flatmum - it wasn't a bank but I have seen it in City banks too.

The man in question for some reason just really visceraly hated women and was especially frightened of women who were clever.

He talked about women in a vile and crude way. I eventually left the firm - it really was not a nice place to work. Incredibly macho, lots of posturing and just not actually that good at serving the clients needs.

i have been on the receiving end of someone like that morebeta and when i was young and naive enough not to really confidently, call and feel it for what it was. the guy hated women except for the motherly, older than him and not ambitious types. he was utterly obstructive to my work, thoroughly unpleasant to me not just in private but in meetings and at any available opportunity. i now feel able to say and know that i was actually really good at my job and getting great results and at the time i started there i came in confident, happy and positive. he hated me instantly.

he became so comfortable with treating me like this and getting away with it that he eventually said something so outrageously inappropriate in such a public way that i was finally able to call it and say enough and make a complaint and try and get things changed. they went through the motions a bit, offered for him to have to read me an apology ya da ya da and i thought it was on record and at least he'd have to start behaving better. a month later he was promoted to be my line manager in both directions i worked in meaning i was totally cornered. i spoke to someone in senior management who knew what had happened and said i didn't feel i could work that way, was poo poo'd and at that point i resigned not only from that position but entirely from that line of work and that work environment.

i actually now feel a bit embarrassed that i let someone do that to me and that i let my experience there have a really big knock on my confidence and on my belief that work could be ok you know? i had my son and stayed out of the workplace and vaguely terrified of it (i honestly felt like everywhere was the same, bully boys in cheap suits who hate women who are as or more able than them). i also feel embarrassed that i let a bullying, negative workplace drive me into depression and anxiety ffs.

now i'm working again and in a position where my abilities, independence and intelligence are really valued rather than seen as a threat or placing a target on my head i keep having to check myself when i think this can't last, this is going too well etc. it's actually now that i'm in a positive environment that i can properly see just how awful that place was and how terribly it affected me. i was shocked by how good my references were from old profs and employers and how impressed they were by me at interview. that place and the bully boy senior management team really did totally interrupt my career and my.... my confidence in myself as a professional.

thanks for calling what it is really like on this thread and i'm sorry everyone for the big confessional me, me, me but it's all a bit fresh in my mind at the minute and quite cathartic.

it is fucking hard and horrible to be treated terribly and not really understand why or what you've done or how to change it because actually it's nothing to do with you you're just a woman and good at her job and that really was enough to put a target on your head the minute you walked in. and senior management teams being all male generally themselves either don't see it for what it is or don't give a damn because he's one of there's and ear marked for fast tracking anyway because he's a yes man who'll do whatever they like and not give a damn about his colleagues which is their ideal candidate.

Xenia Thu 14-Mar-13 10:18:28

On the whole that kind of man is dying out and most of us do not bring up sons to be like that. Also more women are doing better. Once you get a critical mass of women, not 20% at the top but nearer 50% it becomes very hard to sexism to continue. However if loads of women stop work or go part time so that 20% never changes then we end up without progress.

no this man was younger than me and there are still plenty of them about.

most of the women i see doing better are sadly doing so by playing into sexism as in promoting the idea that other women are doing it wrong but it's ok because they're so different and special and just like you boys so you can safely promote them.

no offense xenia but kind of like you with your 'i only take 2wks maternity and all women should be like me' stuff. you are using misogyny to stand out.

EATmum Thu 14-Mar-13 17:52:20

Sorry about the crappy experience you had swallowedafly. Sounds like a very toxic place to be and that you're well shot of it.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 14-Mar-13 17:56:33

Oh saf, that's shit.



i also don't buy this 'well if less than fifty per cent of workers are women we obviously won't see women being treated better'. black people, disabled people, etc will never be fifty per cent so should we just expect them never to achieve equality and decent treatment in the workplace?

just more women blaming xenia.

Xenia Fri 15-Mar-13 13:55:35

There is the supposed rule of threes... that once on a board you have three women not just one who is a token women people then start to see the women as individuals and not just the sex. You need a certain critical mass and gosh we are doing really well in getting that in all kinds of jobs. We just need that last little push now and encouragement to women not to give up work when mostly they regret it and really hate their lives as housewives with no money cleaning u p after babies and living off a man. They think they will love it but many threads on mumsnet shows it is rarely the path to happiness and ruins other women's chances at work too.

I have never said all women should take 2 weeks off to have a baby. I think the 6 weeks at 90% of pay is perfectly fair as women go through more than men and give birth. After that pay is so low most women cannot easily afford to take more time off and plenty choose to go back to full time work quickly and that can be best for everyone.

MoreBeta Fri 15-Mar-13 16:02:11

I heard of a woman in a high powered job that took NO maternity leave.

She took holiday leave for two weeks, answered client calls while in labour, gave birth and returned to work without mentioning she had taken a break to have a baby. As far as her firm and her clients were concerned she had been at work the whole time.

That would suggest someone who feared an adverse consequence from taking maternity leave.

flatmum Fri 15-Mar-13 16:36:44

Xenia I think you're over-estimating how well it's going

morebeta - and a woman who knew the way to succeed was to be unlike other women and stand out as better, different, just like the boys. which is what these high achieving women (promoted by men as low risk of upsetting the applecart despite being female and no chance of any of that sisterhood nonsense) tend to be.

it's like neocolonialism worked.

MoreBeta Fri 15-Mar-13 17:34:31

SaF - I wasn't going to say it but basically don't even acknowledge you are a woman and dont acknowledge other women exist either or even acknowledge that there is a problem.

and you'll do fine. and bolster their equality figures.


Xenia Sat 16-Mar-13 21:11:26

I don't think what I did was too different from the MoreBeta woman and why not? if you want to and can it can be a wonderful s9olution. There is no godgiven rule that you have to be ill when you have a baby or you have to spend a state required amount of months with the baby. Plenty of women like to work until they go into labour and come back very quickly. It works well It's nothing special. It is massively easier than being at home with 3 children under 3, much more restful, means you have no sexism at home and you don't lose money, win win all round. What is not to like?

MoreBeta Sun 17-Mar-13 08:13:01

While I think it is argueable that a whole year of maternity leave is too much for an employer to be expected to deal with I think pretending you haven't given birth just to keep your employer happy is not right in any sense.

Women only do it becasue they feel under pressure. It is not a good thing.

Xenia Sun 17-Mar-13 11:31:08

I think it's sexist though to say to a woman who actively wants to go back to work quickly that she is pretending she has not given birth. You can lean in or lean out or something in between but it's important men and women realise the consequences of those actions. i think some live in a fool's paradise on this topic.

Women do not only do it because they are under pressure. I was not pressured by anyone to take 2 weeks off. It is all I wanted or needed. Why should women be pressured to take months and months off if they don't want to? Men are not subject to the same pressure.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sun 17-Mar-13 11:45:42

The length of maternity leave and the requirement that the woman takes the first half is partly to do with breast feeding targets, isn't it?

And yes, I know you managed to work and breast feed Xenia, but for me, even with very sympathetic bosses, expressing more than once a day at work would have had more impact on my work (scheduling meetings etc) than staying off for longer. If I worked in retail or something similar I'm sure it would have been even harder.

I'm fine about that, I took the unpressured decision to take six months and mixed-fed accordingly, but if I had planned to go back after six weeks I would have bottle fed from the start for sure.

OrbisNonSufficit Sun 17-Mar-13 12:20:06

Interesting. I've considered this (we are TTC at the moment), and talked to some of the more senior women that I trust in our company about it and their advice is Do Not Tell Them.

I'd like to be able to discuss it - I feel it would make my career planning conversations and their resource planning conversations more realistic and meaningful. But I know that it would inevitably lead to some level of discrimination (unspoken), so I don't.

Also there is obviously the timing issue. I could be pregnant this time next month, or it could take another 2 years, and I don't want it to be brought up at every talent review meeting that I might be imminently popping off for 6 months of mat leave - of course that will make them reticent about giving me a promotion or big opportunity. Similarly, I also intend to hide the bump when it happens for as long as I can - jackets and scarves!

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Tue 19-Mar-13 12:40:42

Am watching a CNN interview with SS right now. She makes a good point about Melissa Myers and how her decisions get looked at as "a female CEO's decision" whereas no male CEO's decisions would ever get described like that. (the specific issue was the ending of telecommuting at yahoo)

CultureMix Sun 31-Mar-13 02:09:41

The company I was with sold our division to another company when I was in very early stages of pregnancy and not prepared to announce it yet. We had an HR session for our team (about 20 people) to go through HR policies for the new company - of course maternity leave didn't specifically come up and as one of only two women in the team I didn't want to bring it up in public as that was rather waving a big red flag. Finally I met with the HR person separately and bundled it in with several other topics - pretty obvious I know but nothing else I could think of. He answered my questions and did not ask the obvious one himself.

It all worked out in the end, I moved from one large company to another and they had quite similar policies. In particular my years on the job carried through into the new company so I was still eligible for full maternity cover. Soon afterwards I was off for 3 weeks' Christmas holiday, the sale went through in January so I announced my news when I came back to work (at the new co) and it went fine. But I was lucky, could have turned out differently. It helped that I was still working with my old team so the work remained similar.

Bereavednanny Sat 13-Apr-13 16:30:49


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