I owe my old boss a lot. But I've never exactly felt he deserved a medal for his bravery in offering me a job.
Which is why I'm so annoyed at myself. I was interviewed today on radio about giving up work, something I've done before. But I've never been asked this particular question.
Surely, said my interviewer, my boss had had to think twice before appointing a woman to a senior job like my old one?
I was so surprised that instead of saying what I thought (er, why? Obviously you need to know if someone could do the job, but why should you be specifically more worried about that if they're - gasp!imagine it! - a woman?) I spluttered something about hoping that wasn't the case. I wimped out.
Thinking about it on the way home though, I wondered. This may well be unfair, because he never said a word about it, but I do wonder if my gender crossed my boss's mind. If for no other reason than because I suspect a lot of men appointing a 33-year-old woman to a critical job worry whether they'll get pregnant and leave. It shouldn't enter their thinking, but I bet it often does.
And of course, I did get pregnant two years later: and eventually leave, nearly five years later. Nevermind that if I was childless, I'd quite possibly have left for a new job elsewhere. (There is a brilliant study I can't currently find showing men leave jobs more frequently than women, because they defect for promotions - so actually if you want a committed employee, maybe hire a woman).
So perhaps the interviewer was right to ask. If so, depressing how little has changed. I was talking a few days ago to a friend of a friend, a GP who trained in, I guess, the early 70s. She was asked directly at her medical school interview if she meant to have children and what she would do about it, a question that's illegal now under sex discrimination law. She knew the only acceptable answer was that she'd be a fulltime doctor no matter what, so it's what she said.
Interviewers don't usually ask that question openly now: but I suspect a fair few still ask it silently in their heads. Changing that will take more than legislation.