Saturday, 6 July 2019

A Woman’s job hunt dilemma

It is on a personal note that I begin this blog post. I recently got married to my longtime friend and partner and long before then I had been applying for jobs for positions I felt were interesting and would challenge me to grow. Fortunately or unfortunately I had never received a call back then all of a sudden in a 6 month stretch, I attended 7 interviews for 3 different positions.

None of this entire process was interesting, aside from the following conversation that transpired during one of my interviews. So at the end of one of the 2 interview I attended I was asked rather odd but unusual questions for me.

Interviewer 1: "So, if I may ask how old are you?"

Now to provide context, I wear my hair short, natural and textured (the “kyangwe” style) so my age is questioned a lot when I submit my CV so I paused briefly but answered the question.

Interviewer 1: "What is your status?"

Me: "If you mean my relationship status, recently married."

Interviewer 1: "This job would require you to travel periodically to headquarters and within the region to our operations hub in Kenya. Initially you would also travel for 2 week training in Dubai. Would that be an issue?"

Me: "No!"

Interviewer 2: "So you will be able to travel back and forth to group when needed?"

Me: "Yes."

I commend the interviewer for being very calm and tactful about how emphatic he was on the issue of travel by repeating the question so I gave him more additional feedback without any coercion. 

Me: "I currently travel bimonthly for my job and my husband travels monthly for work as well but it has always been in country. So I do not see a problem."

Interviewer 1: “Oh okay

He seemed more settled after that answer but a day after the interview I obviously took some time off to ponder this recent shift in my relationship - work dynamic.

Naïvely, I guess I assumed that although I had gotten married my day to day would have minimal alteration especially since I have been with my partner for 7 years. What I was prepared for was the shift in terms of house chores, cooking dinner and having to do more socialization with his friends and for his side of business as well.

Now what I never expected to experience was my relationship status to be a cause for my competence to be in question for a new job placement.

I must add that both interviewers were male and I did not get a call back because I emphasized work - life balance as important to me especially since I planned on slowing down from very manic work schedule which was characteristic of all my previous jobs.

At another interview with a prominent company, at the preliminary stages the interviewers were women up to the 2 final sessions. It is at these sessions where my marital status or whether I had children came up and it was never the ladies who asked the question but the men at the table.

Male Interviewer: “Are you married?” 

Me: “Yes, recently married.” 

Male Interviewer: “Oh congratulations, do you have children.”

Me: “No!”

Male Interviewer: “Oh, that makes sense, then the only question I wanted ask you does not apply.” 

So through some back channeling I found out that the question was not related to my competence but how I balance work and personal life (in the event that I had said I had a young child.)

An offer was made at this interview that was below expected rate for the work load and I was called in to explain why I declined which I did only to be told that I should not bother about the actual compensation of the package but the other attractive benefits. 

Aside from that, I was dumbfounded when it was the female in the room who mentioned this shortly after;

Female HR: “You do not have a child, right. Good because you will be on the road to visit 60% of these sites for the better part of the first couple of months and that would be disruptive.”

I think you all know that after that conversation I declined the offer and it is after these interviews that all I have to say to working women who are in top management, I have a new found respect for you. The way you continue to rise to the challenge when the bar has been set 2 notches higher because you are a woman, I do not consider myself a feminist but I would be lying if I said I left this interview cycle the same woman.

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