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I want a team of working mums - am I being sexist?

(70 Posts)
MagicalHamSandwich Fri 09-Sep-16 20:21:55

Please feel free to tear me to pieces if I am! I'm really torn on this one:

I'm in charge of running an offshore software maintenance team, whose primary job it is to keep things uneventful and basically do as little as possible in terms of changing things around. There are strategic reasons why this is a good idea but they're not really relevant to my dilemma.

The team will have to be reduced in size in the coming year (they're currently severely overstaffed) and I'm considering keeping on the three mums we've got and having the guys move to other stuff. My reasoning is basically that each of the women works part-time, so I basically get more actual person per full-time position (good for securing know how and to cover unplanned absences). They're also all in a position where they currently put family before the job (not an assumption, I've spoken with them about this). As stated, their primary objective is to keep the wheels turning - not to re-invent the concept - so people whose primary current ambitions are not in fact to get ahead career wise suit me perfectly at this moment. In fact, the (misguided) ambitions of one of the men is my biggest headache with them at present.

It's basically the perfect solution from a business perspective. However, I have a nagging voice at the back of my head telling me that there's something inherently wrong with selecting people on the grounds that they are women with kids (as in sexist against women, not the men on the team). Am I being paranoid or is there really something horribly sexist about this? And if so: what?

timelytess Fri 09-Sep-16 20:24:52

Sounds fine to me.
I know someone who knows a 'fat cat' who remarked that he wanted single mums in the workforce because they were keen to keep their jobs.

dylexicdementor11 Fri 09-Sep-16 20:27:17

You would be selecting the employees that would do the best job and they happen to be women and mothers.

It would be problematic if you chose them because of their gender, but you're not. So all is fine and good.

MagicalHamSandwich Fri 09-Sep-16 20:32:45

Well, I would not be selecting the employees who show the most drive and ambitions and are capable of producing the largest results, quantitatively speaking. Normally those would be considered the people who are doing the best job. Arguably this is why I feel torn.

Then again, 'doing the best job' in this scenario is essentially the same as 'doing what's required and not engaging in any undesirable self-motivated action', so from that POV the women are beyond doubt the best fit for what I need.

dodobookends Fri 09-Sep-16 20:33:44

You need part-timers who can cover one another. That's it. The fact that the existing staff who fit that requirement happen to be working mums is largely irrelevant. If any of the part-timers were male, then presumably you would be just as inclined to keep them on as well.

EBearhug Fri 09-Sep-16 20:35:21

If you're reducing the team, will the others be redeployed or made redundant? Aren't there selection criteria you have to follow?

I am reminded of Steve Shirley, who set up a women-only software company, one of the first software companies - and when the equal opportunities legislation was passed, they had to start employing men.

PurpleDaisies Fri 09-Sep-16 20:37:37

I'd be pretty pissed off if the fact that someone had children factored into the decision about whether they were hired or not.

If it just happens that the people you want are mums, that's fine.

Dozer Fri 09-Sep-16 20:38:39

Some of your reasoning seems biased.

MagicalHamSandwich Fri 09-Sep-16 20:44:07

Dozer, that's precisely what I'm afraid of - please elaborate?

And, no, nobody will be fired or made redundant - they'll simply be moved on to other projects.

As a bit of background, there are two men currently on the team:

No. 1 is a junior employee. I'd like to move him eventually regardless of everyone else because I think It'd be better for his professional development to gain a wider range of experiences (everyone else on the team already has a lengthy CV).

No. 2 is keen on getting ahead in his career and believes that he will get credit for proposing and implementing a variety of fancy solutions (not the case but explaining this has not helped so far). That's not really in line with out strategic goals for the contract.

JacquettaWoodville Fri 09-Sep-16 20:48:14

People who seem happy to stay in the role long term give you more stability; I think there's a business rationale there.

If you argued that part timers gave you more people and hence more back up, it might constitute indirect discrimination (just as it would if you only selected full timers to stay as administratively easier, when full timers are proportionately less likely to be women )

If all three of your male employees are ambitious to move up and out and you are redeploying rather than making redundancies (in the latter case, you need a formal process to choose), can't you simply offer opportunities to transfer teams to "anyone interested" ? You may well get the result you want by default!

JacquettaWoodville Fri 09-Sep-16 20:48:44

X post, two men not three

EmpressTomatoKetchup Fri 09-Sep-16 20:54:00

you seem to have really low expectations from these women. They seem to have very low expectations of themselves. They're also all in a position where they currently put family before the job (not an assumption, I've spoken with them about this)

MagicalHamSandwich Fri 09-Sep-16 21:11:56

Empress, this is part of the reason why I'm a tad uncomfortable about this. I do in fact expect rather little - or maybe the near impossible, namely that the team does its job and refrains from doing stuff that's not asked for and for which there is no contractual basis. It's not a very exciting job, TBH.

I do try and create growth opportunities for people on the team when I can, but they need to be in line with where the firm wants to go in the long run.

JacquettaWoodville, I'm reasonably certain what you suggest would in fact be the natural outcome of your preposition. Unfortunately, I can't offer anyone on the team any other opportunities. As I stated in the OP they are an offshore team and while I manage this particular contract I have no influence at all re. any other assignments they might get moved to ...

JacquettaWoodville Fri 09-Sep-16 21:18:35

So how will they be redeployed? You say "Bob and John/Bob and Mandy are no longer needed" and anyone with work to spare can request them?

MagicalHamSandwich Fri 09-Sep-16 21:24:02

Yup, pretty much, Jacquetta. I'm in consulting - once we finish a project we either move on to the next one directly or we become 'available' i.e. anyone staffing a project may pick us. While we're on the 'bench' or 'beach' (i.e. not on an assignment) we still get paid and are still employed. It's the nature of the business and it's not exclusive to offshore people. The same applies to me and my own bosses.

caroldecker Fri 09-Sep-16 21:26:57

Are you potentially restricting the experience these mums can gain and thus damaging their long term career prospects?

JacquettaWoodville Fri 09-Sep-16 21:30:25

Then isn't it a similar question? "The project will need fewer staff going forwards, I don't know what the next project might be but as examples, x,y,z are happening at the moment. If you might be interested in moving on, do come and see me for a chat"

Lorelei76 Fri 09-Sep-16 21:31:48

You're being sexist and discriminating against anyone childless or childfree with the blanket statement.

If you only want part timers that's different.
If you can make the legal and business case for only keeping the part timers as they are, then you are okay but I don't know how employment law works in this situation.

Purple Daisies has put it better than me!

JacquettaWoodville Fri 09-Sep-16 21:36:46

Then the chat you have covers that they may be on the bench for a while, that you can't guarantee a project but would let HR or your own line manager know if they had a particular general interest (I dunno, working in France or on a retail project)

MagicalHamSandwich Fri 09-Sep-16 21:53:08

Lorelei, one of the guys actually has kids, too - he's just more ambitious and not a part-time worker. Sexist, I worry about, but childfree is not an issue. Neither is employment law because (see above) noone's losing their job - it's only an assignment.

TBH, the business case is crystal clear: having done all the calculations and having had a chat with each and every one of the team members, keeping the women and losing the men is the most sensible route to take both from a ressource planning and from a strategic perspective.

The one thing I worry about is what Carol mentions, i.e. the fact that I'd mean keeping only the women in what is basically a bit of a boring job (with the men likely going on to more of the same - this is an offshore team we're talking about - but having a slight chance of striking gold.

OTOH, losing the over-ambitious male team lead would mean that a) one of the women would have to take on this role and that b) I'd feel less apprehensive about giving more challenging tasks to the offshore team (because I'd not have to fear that they might run a mile when asked to creep an inch), so there's that ...

MagicalHamSandwich Fri 09-Sep-16 21:54:25

... the fact that it'd mean, damn you, autocorrect! blush

Lorelei76 Fri 09-Sep-16 22:13:32

Your title doesn't quite fit with what you're saying

If you mean that by default, the most sensible set up for the next assignment happens to be a set up where only part timers are involved, then what's the problem? If it was the case that it was a great assignment and everyone wanted to work on it, but that's not the case?

Felascloak Fri 09-Sep-16 22:44:32

I don't think you are being sexist by picking people based on job requirements ie stable service coverage, predictable workload but fewer opportunities to progress. To be fair though you could take the course of action jaquetta suggests. It seems unlikely the ambitious guys want to stay in the role.
Are you line managing the team? You could use one-to-ones to check this works for everyone.
TBH I think you are over thinking slightly smile

LassWiTheDelicateAir Fri 09-Sep-16 23:20:47

I think you are being sexist and discriminatory.

I'd be pretty pissed off if the fact that someone had children factored into the decision about whether they were hired or not.


If part time workers suit your business model then so be it, but your pool of part in future should be any one who is looking for part time work. If you are looking at redundancies you need to be very careful. And you need to avoid engineering a constructive dismissal situation.

grumpysquash3 Sat 10-Sep-16 00:05:53

It sounds like you should select of grounds of ambition (i.e. choose the least ambitious) than on the grounds of gender or parent status.

It's a shame when ambition is not valued, but then again if it's a handle turning job, I can see your point.

It might be best if you shared with absolute clarity the future roles and see who wants to do them. [you might be surprised]

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