Employers Should Be Allowed to Ask Women Job Candidates: “Do You Plan to Get Pregnant?”

Why Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg is right.

It’s 2013 and you know what? It still sucks to be a woman in the workplace. And if you want to be CEO of a large company? Good luck with that too.

Sure, things have improved. Just watch an episode of Mad Men, and you’ll see what our mothers and grandmothers had to deal with only a short time ago. But let’s face it: Women still have a long way to go if they’re to be treated equally by men in the office.

And if you don’t believe me, just ask Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. She’s been getting a ton of grief this week because she had the audacity to say that employers should be able to ask female employees if they plan to get pregnant. Or ask Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, who underwent unprecedented scrutiny when she got the job last year AND then announced she was pregnant to boot. How shocking! A smart, competent woman who also wants … to have a baby too? Imagine the number of investors who would’ve shorted Yahoo!’s stock if she had to miss a meeting because of menstrual cramps (a condition that legitimately affects millions of women).

Women like Sandberg and Mayer and the University of Pennsylvania’s Amy Gutmann are different. They are anomalies. They are rare breeds. Most women wouldn’t put up with this crap—which is why there are only 21 female CEOs in the entire Fortune 500. And in Philadelphia, I count three women among the CEOs of the top 100 publicly held companies in the area. It’s not a matter of competency. It’s a matter of attitudes.

Whose fault is this? Men are certainly to blame. But let’s not let women get off so easy. They’re responsible too.

Look, most grown men are still 12-year-old boys inside. Most men still expect their working spouse to assume responsibility for the household chores. Most men turn immediately to their wives when their kid has the sniffles (“you don’t expect me to miss work, do you?”). Most men raise their eyebrows and give each other a nudge when a good-looking girl appears at a meeting. We check out the way they’re dressed. We’re shocked (still) when they make off-color jokes (she seemed like such a nice girl!). And most men still don’t feel comfortable golfing and drinking with their female colleagues because we can’t make jokes about sex and farting.

This is a fact. This is all happening. I know. I’m guilty of it. It’s getting better. The younger guys are learning how to keep a straight face or to hold their comments. But the old-school guys still have a way to go. And unfortunately, those are the guys still running many a company nowadays. And big cities too. Don’t believe me? Ask New York’s Mayor Bloomberg! Welcome to reality, ladies.

But before you nod in violent agreement, ladies, please know: You’ve helped to create this problem too. Because sometimes we are forced to discriminate, even when it goes against our business principles. That’s what Sandberg is getting at. I am not embarrassed to say that when I interview a young woman, my first thought is “what happens when/if she gets pregnant?” This is a legitimate business question. Right or wrong, the fact is that men delegate mothering to women. And most women (thank God) want that job too—it’s natural. So am I wrong to ask if that smart young lady who I’m about to invest in plans to start a family anytime soon and whether she will actually come back to work in six weeks after she gives birth? Or ever? I need to make plans otherwise. Allow me to ask that question. Oh by the way, guys should face the same scrutiny about their “paternity” plans too.

But we’re not allowed to ask these kinds of questions. And that just perpetuates the problem. Because if we can’t even bring up this kind of legitimate business issue, then how can men and women ever work together on an equal level? And how can a woman succeed in the corporate world if she’s made to tiptoe around issues like pregnancy? Women get pregnant! A few, like Sandberg and Mayer and Gutmann can navigate in this environment. But most women don’t. So what do they do? Most choose not to become CEO or COO of a Fortune 500 company. It’s because they’re smarter than that. They choose other options.

Some stick with their jobs and rise to only a certain level in the typical male-dominated corporation. And they’re OK with that. They don’t want to be one of the boys. They accept the situation and choose not to let it bother them. They’re above that. In exchange, they (hopefully) have a good job with a good salary and benefits. They create time with their families and are comfortable with their lot in life. And good for them. Take a walk through any local company, from Comcast to Campbell Soup, and you’ll find lots of these women.

Other women chuck the corporate job and open up their own businesses. And why not? This way they can do their own thing on their own time and can have better control over when they have to deal with those old-school guys. These are savvy women, and I know many who work crazy hours and stress over their businesses and their family commitments. They’re not running Fortune 500 companies, but they’re not doing too bad either.

Most women aren’t like Sandberg or Mayer or Gutmann. Most women will not become CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. The numbers already prove that. A significant reason why is that grown, responsible men are still adolescent boys at heart. But it’s not all our fault. Because while we are still prohibited from asking reasonable questions like “do you plan to start a family anytime soon and what impact will that have on my business?” there will always be discrimination in the workplace.

  • http://www.scargosun.com/ Scargosun

    I am trying to wrap my head around this article and what it suggests. Recently, I interviewed candidates for a position at my place of business and, maybe because I am a woman, I did not think or want to ask if the women I interviewed were ‘planning’ on getting pregnant. I was much more concerned with their ability to do the job. Maybe, if more people focused on that, there would be more bright capable women in in the workplace. That being said, maybe if we had a better system of maternity/paternity leave in the US, you would be free to ask that question. Seeing as how many first world countries provide BOTH parents with PAID leave to take care of and get to know their new child, the playing field for jobs would have more balance. You could ask a man or a women if they were planning on starting a family because a pregnancy would take either/both out of their job for a length of time. Since that is not the case here in the US, that question will not be asked by legitimate businesses anytime soon. I am one of those women who will not be having children but I am sickened by this article.

    • chomps

      I couldn’t agree more!!! This guy is a pompous ass to just sum up women as naturally wanting to raise kids and suggesting that men don’t. My husband is nothing like the good-ol’-boy this guy describes, and thank god for that, that there are men who aren’t howling caricatures of civilized people.

    • http://twitter.com/drama_galore Dramatic Anti-Climax

      Although, to be fair, he did say that he should be able to ask men about their paternity intentions. I disagree with the whole article, but he did say that.

      • AlbinoWino

        True, but he still chose to spend the entire article targeting women’s choices in the workplace and how he is more anxious to target them with those questions.

        • http://twitter.com/drama_galore Dramatic Anti-Climax

          I do know. And I’m not a guy or anything. I literally still hate the dude. But I do try to give credit where credit is due.

  • Brian

    As a young man with an office job, I find this article horrifically offensive. The first thing you think about when you interview a woman is whether or not she will become pregnant and not her job experience, education, or work philosophy?

    I find it embarrassing for the blogs you write on that you are considered a legitimate source of wisdom on business and customer relationship when you have publicly expressed such misogynist viewpoints. I would hate to be a female applying to a job with your group and know that you thought about my uterus before you thought of my brain.

    • J.Oz

      Brian…Gene is trying to have an adult conversation. Get over yourself. Frank and direct conversations and debate are…frank and direct, i.e., often not comfortable.

      • Brian

        Hi J.Oz, I appreciate your comment. I know frank and direct conversations are hard to have. And I wish the author was more willing to have them with the old men who he cites as supporting this anti-female attitude than telling women what they are capable of doing and essentially putting up with the status quo instead of challenging it. I would be interested in hearing more of your perspective though.

      • anonymice

        There’s a world of difference between uncomfortable and patently offensive.

      • http://twitter.com/colleenw Coco

        Incorrect. Gene is 12, remember?

      • k_milt

        You get that part of ‘debate’ is that people will potentially disagree with you, right? And – get this – people might even find your opinion offensive! And they’re allowed to tell you that! Imagine such a world. I’m sure you can’t. So swan off, dear princess. Perhaps it is you who should ‘get over yourself’.

    • http://twitter.com/rs_hwfan Rose

      AMEN!!

  • disqus_tW1OJRJxIy

    Wow, I know who I don’t want to work for …

  • BostonSwimmer

    Thank goodness we have people who think this way around corporate America. I mean, I’m so glad that the CEO of a company really is a 12-year-old inside, who checks out my rack in meetings and is getting a gold star for not cracking jokes about farting and sex in the workplace. Bravo for doing the hard work of being a mature person and not having to think about being a good parent!!

    I’d really hate to have a woman as a boss who has found the ability to balance having children and being professionally successful. She might be able to teach me something like time management and multi-tasking. Who needs that when I can look forward to a life of household chores and taking care of my man when he’s sick?

    • J.Oz

      Reality bites…the corporate landscape is changing SLOWLY. Many companies, both large and mid-sized, have MANDATED initiatives to hire more women and place more women in leadership positions, especially in the technology sector, The mandate alone identifies the issue/gap. From a recruiting perspective, women are an underutilized resource and employers must adapt, but that doesn’t mean the guys at the top will like it…guess what? Many DO NOT.

      • BostonSwimmer

        I understand the POV from a strictly business perspective, but go at it from that angle. Discuss it from a money point of view, or a productivity point of view. Don’t go at it from the angle of “well, men are pigs and we will always be pigs, so that’s why we will always be in charge. The job of a woman is to ultimately bear children, so if that’s in a woman’s plan, companies won’t assume she will be able to handle both a successful family and a successful job”. That just sounds ignorant.

        In addition, men are often granted paternity leave, or they take paternity leave, for weeks as well. Why aren’t they asked the same questions?

    • ndcfromak

      You’re right! He really does have some great points! After all, as a fertile 22-year-old female myself, I know I’m a pregnant mess waiting to happen! Thankfully, although he addresses the issue of men also taking a paternity leave when/after their significant other is pregnant with one single line in parentheses, Mr. Gene Mark’s leaves the flip side of the coin at that. He has the sense to mention it, but not really advocate asking men their future parental plans. Because that would make both women and men un-hire-able in a Fortune 500 work force. So… oh, wait… that would leave… NO ONE, except a handful of single men who check out their size two secretaries and pass gas during corporate meetings. Like himself.

      Oh, and did you know you can still menstruate when you’re pregnant? I would have never known had he not brought up Marissa Mayer and Yahoo!’s unfortunate dilemma.

      I don’t know what the country would do without forward, informed thinkers like Mr. Mark.

  • J.Oz

    Good stuff Gene…you’re the Juan Williams of the issue now.

  • Crout

    If it becomes reasonable and legal to ask such a question, it will soon become reasonable and legal to fire women who become pregnant.

    • chomps

      That’s what this guy is implying. If he wouldn’t hire a pregnant woman, why wouldn’t he fire one?

    • http://twitter.com/rs_hwfan Rose

      Exactly!! This idea is GARBAGE

  • Sean

    Thanks for saying it, Gene. You’ll take your hits, but you’re right. Obviously, everyone has the right to start a family, but fewer and fewer people seem to feel like they have to build up any “capital” in an office before taking that leap. This column focuses on women simply because the very nature of biology places the most demands on their health and time. Then, the combination of biology and culture has them out of the office for a considerable amount of time.

    As sentient being, I understand that, but when you work somewhere – a career-type of job – you owe it to that place of work to become a valued, contributing member BEFORE asking so much of the business. That means, no maternity leaves six months after starting. it’s not too much to ask a little responsibility and planning of people – too many of whom, from what I observe, have no business breeding in the first place.

    But that’s a whole other issues, of course….

    • anonymice

      Um, ok, but that’s already taken care of. FMLA doesn’t apply until you’ve been somewhere (at a large enough company) for over 12 months, and most places have policies about how long before you can take maternity leave.

      • Sean

        Right, but I’m talking more like three or four years of equity being built up. I know a person can’t be expected to plan every single aspect of his or her life (to say nothing of illnesses), but most people can get a handle on most things. It’s an issue of selfishness, really. I know I’m Satan for saying it, but it really is.

        • anonymice

          You want a guarantee that ANY of your employees will be there in 3-4 years, treat them well. Trying to plan that far ahead is absurd. A large number of pregnancies are unplanned. A lot of people try for months or years before (or without) getting pregnant. It’s absurd to cling to pregnancy as this big issue of employee investment.

          • Sean

            I seem to retain people for quite a while, because I DO treat them well. But I also hire well, and can identify people who get it.

          • http://twitter.com/OrchidsBloom Diana P

            You mean, share your discriminatory worldview?

            The world is an easier place when everyone is a straight, white male. Mad Men FTW!

          • Sean

            Nope, not those. Do you think I’d hire someone with a discriminatory world view? I would be the first one fired if I did that.

          • http://twitter.com/OrchidsBloom Diana P

            I think you have the discriminatory worldview. Do you (or would you want to) ask men if they have an aging parent at home, partake in dangerous sports, or drive fast cars?

            If not, you are assuming that because a woman has a uterus, at some point she is going to fill it (wrong!) and that men will be available no matter what else happens in their lives.

            If it is an issue of selfishness, than assume both genders are selfish.

          • anonymice

            Ok, but you’re essentially saying that women who plan to have kids in the next 3 years shouldn’t look for a job. That’s ridiculous. And, um, discriminatory.

          • Sean

            Of course, there are no hard and fast rules. But in planning your future – as much as any of us may, anyway – yes, that it something that should be considered. There are all sorts of reasons why people should or should not look for a (new/any) job at any particular point. That may well be one.

            Sometimes, you really can’t have it all. And, you know, even contemporary feminist thought is trending this way.

          • anonymice

            It’s awfully hard to tell people they shouldn’t look for a job, when they, y’know, need one…

            Look, in an ideal world, employees would plan around their employer. As I did. But we don’t live in an ideal world, and that’s not always possible – and that’s still no reason to discriminate.

          • Sean

            To me, someone who NEEDS a job is probably at least a few years away from being in a position to procreate – by and large, I mean. In propagation of the species, proper propagation should be understood.

          • anonymice

            That’s an awfully classist statement…

            I have savings, and I could go 6 months unemployed, but I still NEED a job to afford my kids.

          • Sean

            That why I added the “by and large” qualifier. There are always exceptions.

    • Jennifer

      How about a little “responsibility and planning of people” from the men who have no business breeding in the first place? You act as if men have no role in this.

      • Sean

        Oh, absolutely. It’s a two-player game. I’m with you there. But you can’t deny the reality that typically, it is the woman who bears the greater brunt of responsibility, with regard to time consumed and all that. I don’t mean “responsibility” as far as who causes the pregnancy….

        • anonymice

          Right, but that’s kind of the point. She bears the responsibility because she’s the one who has to get pregnant. The man can have a kid any time, but the woman has to make sure she’s been in her job at least 3-4 years?

          What if a couple wants to have kids, but the woman gets fired? Does that mean they can’t have kids until she’s been at her new job for 3-4 years?

          Just because there’s a good business reason to discriminate doesn’t mean it’s ok to discriminate.

          • Sean

            No, it doesn’t mean the man can have a kid any time! As far as I’m concerned, it goes for BOTH parents. In actually, they can do whatever they want whenever they want, and no one can stop them. But, I do like to foster a culture where there is some genuine, mutually beneficial give and take between employer and employee. And where I’ve been involved, it works very well. Then again, I’m also awesome… ;)

        • Jennifer

          Exactly. Women get punished career-wise for pregnancy and motherhood. Men don’t. It’s archaic. Also archaic to continue the tradition of women taking on the brunt of child-rearing, as Sean states.

          • Sean

            To be certain: It is on BOTH parents, as far as I’m concerned. I’m probably more progressive than most people you know, but don’t call my ways archaic because I don’t adhere to silly dogma.

          • anonymice

            Ok, then you shouldn’t (probably) have gone into why this article focuses on women. The focus on women is discriminatory – if you think this question should be asked, then men should be asked too.

            Regardless, it’s contrary to reality for a number of reasons. There’s no reason for an employee to tell the truth in the interview. Pregnancies can be very hard to plan (or avoid). Yes, people should do the right thing, and not put their employer in a bind, but sometimes it’s time to have a kid and there’s nothing you can do about it. Your family – your life, and the next 18+ years of it – is more important than a temporary inconvenience to your employer. And I say this as an employer with an employee who just came back from maternity leave…

          • Sean

            That’s pretty fair. I do not think the question should be asked, for the reason that too many employers/hiring managers would not be able to process the answer responsibly. I don’t think the question should be asked of women or men. But, I would be lying if I said I did not try to glean some sort of insight into prospective candidates (of both genders). When you interview someone, you try to get as good a read as possible as to whether hiring him or her is a good investment of your time and money, a quandary that has SO many variables. I DO want to know if the person is going to be present, and present often enough to make it worthwhile.

            I agree that your family is more important, ultimately, than a temporary (or, sometimes, persistent) inconvenience to your employer. But, the beneficence of the employer – the one that currently provides the compensation (in exchange for your labor, of course, that allows you to begin/raise a family in the first place. And that has to be respected.

          • anonymice

            Agreed – but what you’re describing goes way beyond someone’s family plans. If you interview well, you may very well choose someone who plans to have a kid next year but will time it as conveniently as possible, work like crazy before taking leave, and be an invaluable employee otherwise – over someone with no plans for kids. The pregnancy issue is almost irrelevant.

          • Sean

            Also true. Like I said, it’s all part of the complete read I try to get on someone. The person who is willing to do what you say is someone I trust to handle the situation the right way, with professionalism, which is really all I’d ask for. But, because I’ve worked at a number of institutions that offers primo benefits, I’ve also seen a good number of people (men and women) come in with the intention of milking the situation. I’m sure this has colored my opinion some on the “children” issue.

    • chomps

      I owe nothing to a company that would lay off someone who had worked there for 25 years and got nothing in return. Employees are no longer loyal to their companies because companies are no longer loyal to them!

      • Sean

        Well, we are all defined in great part by our experiences, and I have never worked at anyplace where that was the case. I do know it happens, but I’ve yet to see it. I’ve been lucky, I suppose.

  • crazygemini12

    “And most women (thank God) want that job too—it’s natural”. Ahhh. The good ol’ “every living person with ovaries has a desire to have babies” bullshit. Every woman doesn’t want a baby. Stop perpetuating this garbage. All women aren’t the same.

    • http://twitter.com/Brooke_Surname Brooke Michelle

      Right there with ya.

      • http://twitter.com/matbeeDOTcom Mathieu Gosbee

        I don’t even know where to start with this article.. it feels… weird.

        But– It’s safe to assume that most women are going to have a baby.

        • benanov

          Not anymore…there’s a lot of people who are child-free and they’re slowly finding their voice and each other.

          • anonymice

            Uh, it’s still like 80% of women who have children. So yeah, it’s still a safe assumption that most women will have a baby. 80% = most.

          • benanov

            Stop bingoing me, you breeder. /s

          • J.Oz

            Without children there will be no one to pay for your SS benefits and gov funded (i.e., tax payer funded) health care.

          • benanov

            That would require me not to have planned not to rely on those programs. I’m not a Baby Boomer (hell, I’m barely a Gen X-er) and after repeated political campaigns saying Social Security was insolvent (regardless of it is or isn’t, it was popular to claim that years ago when I was younger), I didn’t buy in to the idea that the government should take care of me.

            If that’s your best reason for me to have children, it’s a pretty sorry one.

          • JACK WILLIAMS

            everyone must have kids, moron

          • JACK WILLIAMS

            everybody should have kids asshole

        • Megan

          Actually, no. Just NO. It’s not safe to assume ANYTHING anymore.

          GOD.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Zoe-Stevens/906585245 Zoe Stevens

      That’s every he said “most” women and not “every woman”. Words mean things.

      • crazygemini12

        Yes. “Most” means the greatest number (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/most) , as in the vast majority. Words do indeed have meaning and this man cannot possibly know MOST women or what their dreams/motivations/desires are so how he can ASSUME (another word that has meaning) that this is true for the MAJORITY (another word that has meaning) of women he’s probably never interacted with is absurd.

        • J.Oz

          BS…his assumption is REASONABLE at the very least.

    • JACK WILLIAMS

      they better want to have babies…thats their job, feminazi

  • Mike

    Men are not to blame, and neither are women. These things are not a battle of the sexes, they’re a battle of IDEALS. The sooner we all recognize that, the sooner this antiquated gender polarization can end.

  • http://twitter.com/TarynItUpNY Taryn Cooper

    I’m really not following. Acknowledging discrimination against women in the workplace is a start. But asking job candidates if they plan to get pregnant? Why stop there? Why not ask for my ovulation cycle? Why not ask if I’m menstruating right then and there.

    Until you get a uterus, I really think you have no place to weigh in the issue. Sheryl Sandberg, IMO, is off her rocker. If you’re asking about family issues, the question should be directed towards men too. But they won’t be cause you know, people just want to control individual repro rights. **SMH**

    • J.Oz

      “[P]eople just want to control individual repro rights”…? Abortion (i.e., killing babies) is legal. Contraception is widely available, sometimes free. Many insurance policies have provisions for contraception. WTFAYTA?

  • anonymice

    Pregnancy is 9 months long. If she gets pregnant, you’ll have plenty of time to plan for her absence. And she’s not eligible for FMLA until she’s been there at least a year, so you’re talking about planning for something at least a year away, anyway.

    So no, you don’t have a legitimate business reason to ask. Any one of your (current!) employees could have a situation a year from now when they need to take off – pregnancy, wife’s pregnancy, sick parent, cancer treatment, who knows?

    And it’s discriminatory because if we want to perpetuate the species, and if a woman and a man want to have kids, it’s the woman who has to get pregnant. There’s no other option. So it’s not fair to hold that against her.

    • anonymice

      Meaning, I’m glad you found one woman who agrees with you that you should be able to ask, but that doesn’t mean it’s ok.

      It also doesn’t mean it’s ok to act or think like a 12-year-old. If you WANTED to discredit your own POV, you couldn’t have done a better job than with that section.

  • Jennifer

    Wow, this guy lives in the dark ages. Believing that women are not CEOs because they are “smarter than that”? Too smart to want success? No acknowledgement that discrimination holds them back, or that women are punished in the corporate world for becoming mothers?

    Yeah, right, buddy. Go back to your dingy bar for your boys-only happy hour and fart jokes. No self-respecting woman would want to spend time with you anyway.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Prince-OWales/653129497 Prince O’Wales

      I love the ignorance displayed when people don’t acknowledge their own priledge when saying that it’s your fault that you are not as successful as them.

      This guy is severely ignorant

  • http://twitter.com/sfBirdie Sarah M.

    You do realize most men will not become CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, either, correct?

    Thanks for the mansplaining, I so needed it.

  • http://twitter.com/OrchidsBloom Diana P

    WOW. Sure, sometimes women get pregnant. Sometimes men have heart attacks, go heli-skiing, or drive recklessly and die.

    Perhaps you should invest more time in developing resources for all of your employees, instead of driving away half of the population.

    • J.Oz

      Good point, but I think that is also PART of the message from the article. Another read maybe…?

  • Jezzer

    Prospective employers should be allowed to ask Gene during the interview if he plans to take time off to get hair plugs.

    • chomps

      Oh god, lmfao! I’m dying over this one!

    • Sean

      Ad hominem attacks are always the way to back out of a debate you can’t win. Nicely done.

      • Iain

        No, it’s the proper response when presented with a point of view which is deluded and laughable.

  • Laura

    “Right or wrong, the fact is that men delegate mothering to women. And most women (thank God) want that job too—it’s natural.”

    No, it’s socialized. When you assume otherwise, especially when interacting with individuals, it undermines their own gender identify. If I’m a woman who doesn’t want to do mothering (and by this you seem to mean staying at home with kiddos) then you are implying I’m not naturally a woman, which isn’t true. Until you stop making these assumptions, we can’t have open dialog about pregnancy plans.

    • JACK WILLIAMS

      all ladies have the mothering instinct

  • http://twitter.com/rs_hwfan Rose

    I find your opinion extremely offensive. If I were to walk into a job interview and say that I plan to start a family, anyone can pretty much guarantee that I would get passed over for someone who says they are not planning to have a child in the near future, or ever. And by the way, if I say “no I am not planning to have a child”…what happens if I get pregnant accidentally?! Will I get fired? This is the most absurd article I’ve read in recent months. Way to set the women’s fight for equal rights back…way back. Of course this was written by a man. Surprise surprise.

  • http://www.facebook.com/katherine.d.rosa Katherine De La Rosa

    You, sir, sound like an insufferable asshole, and if that’s your head shot up there, kudos for being complete, what with the shit eating grin. What really bothers me about this is that I actually agree with your standpoint; don’t bring your impressive qualifications and vet to join my vast, powerful company just to get knocked up and check out for 9-12 months after we bring you aboard. I actually stand in full solidarity with that viewpoint. Your disingenuous delivery, however, is more than slightly nauseating.

    • chomps

      Check out for 9 months? If that was your pregnancy, you did it wrong.

      • http://www.facebook.com/katherine.d.rosa Katherine De La Rosa

        Lol. I thought I was underestimating, but as you can guess, I’ve never been pregnant.

    • anonymice

      You shouldn’t hire any women, then. Any one of them might get pregnant, by accident, even those who think they’re infertile. Best to hire all men.

      • http://www.facebook.com/katherine.d.rosa Katherine De La Rosa

        That’s really not the point. The thing with this subject is that it immediately gets boiled down to a gender issue. Yes, this guy is a moron, and probably too infantile to even be running a company let alone offering tid bits as to the do’s and don’t of juggling a professional and personal life simultaneously however, ultimately this boils down to the needs of a business. It’d be great if this country were like some Nordic ones, offering paid maternity leave, etc (I read one or a few of them offer this, but it was a while back, please correct me if I am mistaken,) but unfortunately, this is not the case. Anyone can see that the cost of training an employee just to have to either replace them for whatever the length of maternity leave is or altogether, is, at best, not cost effective.

        • anonymice

          I entirely agree, and in an ideal world, employees would do their best to plan around their employer’s needs. Pregnancy can be quite inconvenient to an employer. But the reality is that to take this into account, you’d actually have to just not hire women. And the reality is also that it’s discriminatory and absurd to treat pregnancy as a bigger issue than anything else that causes people to leave jobs or take leave.

        • Scandi

          They all offer paid maternity leave, and paternity leave. Welcome to the modern world of equality – it’s a thing, get on board.

          • thisonly

            Yes but it is not state paid. The businesses still have to pay for it. If you’re a small business owner, for example, and you have a baby, you’re not going to just say, “well I’m Norwegian, so I’m going to take my year off, now.” because your business will not operate itself. I don’t agree with asking women if they plan to get pregnant, but I wouldn’t be too quick to point to Europe as the answer. It’s not what you think, and it is a significant burden, which they pay for in other ways.

  • Liz

    Two books this dude should read (and I know he won’t): “Brainstorm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Difference” (Jordan-Young) and “Delusions of Gender: How our Minds, Society and Neurosexism create difference” Cordelia Fine. Really, really eye opening.

  • anonymice

    I realize that anecdotes are useless statistically, but I know exactly one woman who has had a baby, then decided to stay at home, when she had not previously planned to stay at home. One.

    I know…I don’t know, hundreds of people, who have left jobs for various reasons. I mean, every single person I know has left a job at some point for some reason. You want to keep your employees, treat them well. But to treat pregnancy as this enormous burden of employee retention and employee investment is ridiculous, and discriminatory. The odds that a woman will leave when she has a kid are no higher than the odds that any of your other employees will just decide to leave.

    If the issue is maternity leave, then get over it. FMLA is available to both men and woman, and only after 12 months. If you can’t plan around an employee’s absence 12 months from now with at least 6 months notice, then you have no business running anything.

    • http://twitter.com/drama_galore Dramatic Anti-Climax

      Hey, I didn’t read through all the comments before I posted mine. So sorry that it seems to copy yours!

      • anonymice

        Ha, all good – they seem to be in a weird order. For all I know, you posted first.

  • chomps

    Nothing like straight, white, male privilege to start the day.

    • Alodomic

      Well, you know there’s a shortage of that. Clearly we need more “mansplanations.”

      /sarcasm

    • J.Oz

      YAWN!

  • anonymice

    A question, men: is this guy right about the 12-year-old thing? Really? Jesus.

  • jennwhinnem

    If you truly believe asking that question would change anything, you are as ignorant as your forebears.

    • http://twitter.com/rs_hwfan Rose

      He’s definitely ignorant, among other descriptive words…

  • Iain

    It would be nice to live in a progressive world where we accept that some things are more important than the daily 9-5 grind and where attitudes such as presented in this article are universally derided for the misogynistic gibberish that it is.

  • http://twitter.com/drama_galore Dramatic Anti-Climax

    I don’t see how this is a relevant business question. It would be the same as asking “do you ever plan to quit if you found a better job?”. And that’s the concern he raises. Whether the job would be affected if the woman decided to quit and become a SAHM. Even if I planned to become pregnant and leave, it’s none of your business. Just like I plan to leave my current job (although I love it and it pays well), if and when my dream job (counseling high school students) would become available. If my employers would ask me if I would ever consider leaving, or if I have plans to leave for a better job, then I would consider it an invasion of my privacy, and rightly so. It may also mean that I wouldn’t get the job. This is just an excuse for discrimination in the workplace: not allowing equal opportunities for promotion.

  • disqus_I2JPI2n4st

    Ridiculous. I have a number of guy friends who were pissed off when Mitt Romney said women should be able to get home from work in time to cook dinner for their kids because THEY wanted to get home in time to cook dinner for their kids, too. They weren’t mad because women deserve to get time off to make dinner – they were mad at the implication that ONLY women give a crap about raising children. You mentioned how far behind the times the old boys club is. This article is probably just as far behind for even approaching this topic as if there is no such thing in the world as a stay at home dad.

  • Ashley

    I had to stop reading when the author suggested that there are only 21 female CEOs with Fortune 500 companies because of their attitudes and unwillingness to put up with bullshit from their male peers: “They are anomalies. They are rare breeds. Most women wouldn’t put up with this crap—which is why there are only 21 female CEOs in the entire Fortune 500.”
    This kind of trivialization of women’s issues and patriarchal culture is the reason why I do not identify with mainstream dudebro liberalism. Even “progressive” men can be sexist.

  • og_cheeky

    This is a massive load of infuriating, horrendous bullsh!t. Don’t worry your pretty little heads about moving up the corporate ladder, ladies, you’re just different. This work isn’t for you. It’s for manchildren. You wouldn’t understand because you menstruate.

  • http://twitter.com/ConcreteNCoffee Jen Raby

    Might as well ask, “Do you plan on breaking your leg?” or “Do you plan on coming down with an illness?” or “Do you plan on ever… changing your plans for your future?”

    If we could know everything about a potential hire’s future the day they sit down for the interview, that would make the selection process so much easier. This will never be the case. If you are hiring someone and want to ensure a certain level of commitment, offer retention incentives. But the second a woman suspects that her job qualifications were overlooked for another candidate simply because she *might* want to have a family someday (or heaven forbid, walks into the interview already sprouting a nice little baby bump), your company is in deep you-know-what. Because as much as anyone wants to try to justify it, it’s still discrimination.

  • http://twitter.com/hjhglobal hjhglobal

    This article is frightening… I hope my daughters never have to work for a guy like this one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/vorpal.sword.3 Vorpal Sword

    “Because if we can’t even bring up this kind of legitimate business issue, then how can men and women ever work together on an equal level?”
    (How does he jump from this to that? Hard to get to the bottom of it…but Do they ask gay men if they’re going to adopt, or if they tend to get attracted to their squeamish and untactful male collegues?)

    “A significant reason why is that grown, responsible men are still adolescent boys at heart. ”
    (What the hell? If they aren’t up front about their adolescence, how can men and women ever work together on an equal level? Basically, the men are lying at all times unless another man who ‘gets it’ is around. Like men shouldn’t have to do any work to meet women halfway. The only option is “women becoming one of the guys.” They could take J Edgar Hoover’s lead? hahhahah http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/oliphant/vc007266.jpg )

  • http://www.facebook.com/annehyphenmarie Anne-Marie Larson Earl

    Personal life should remain personal. Your personal opinion should stay personal, and you should NOT have published it. Do we ask men in interviews how their relationships/marriages are doing? How old are their parents? Might they die soon and require that they take off work? What about any history of gambling addiction? Seriously? Are you serious? What about their sperm? Are they shooting blanks? No? Then no job for them. Maybe we should just be happy in our lower-paying jobs, or we can start our own little company. How about our own Etsy store? Maybe a dessert-catering business? CAN YOU TELL THAT I AM MAD BASED ON HOW MANY QUESTIONS I’VE ASKED?!? You condescending piece of crap?!?

  • Scandi

    So… by asking women – and men – if they plan to have a family sometime soon, that will stop you discriminating against women when you have them in for an interview? Seeing as you apparently expect women to be naturally inclined towards child rearing, I don’t see how women as a gender are then in a better position than they are now?
    Or do you claim that you would have no problem hiring a woman who planned to start a family asap, as long as you know about it?
    Somehow I find that hard to believe. Or did I misunderstand and you reckon women should just choose between deciding on raising a family and advancing in the workplace?
    If that is the case, may I remind you that that was a good part of the reason women were even more oppressed before laws were put in place to protect them – such as making it illegal to ask if they plan on getting pregnant?

  • NW

    You might as well ask a woman if she plans on getting cancer or if her husband or parent plans to get terminally ill at any point since these are all valid and realistic reasons why people miss work. And perhaps we should ask men when they plan on getting prostate cancer because a good percentage of them do in their late fifties. This article is absurd.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kmoran08 Kevin Moran

    All this suggests is that we have unfair maternity policies that effectively make women less “valuable” in the workplace. This isn’t an issue with women employees, it’s an issue with batshit crazy unfair policies.

  • http://twitter.com/Cecilyk Cecily Kellogg

    Awesome to know that this dude is immature and has to fight the instinct to behave inappropriately with his female coworkers. Sheesh.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shvaygshosh Shoshana Martyniak

    It’s a moot point because it’s illegal to ask.

  • Annethensome

    Let’s also ask women what they wear to bed & how they like the intercourse that will impregnate them during interviews. Kiss my pregnant ass, then go back to your board room circle jerk.

  • NathalieW

    Wow, gene! You hit the nail on the head. You’re taking on a huge investment in a hiring a worker so let’s not stop at asking ladies if they’re thinking about getting pregnant–no! Not when so much more can affect the bottom line! Let’s also ask anyone over 30 if they are smokers (don’t hire them, they’ll get cancer soon and die!). Ask all single people if they are promiscuous (don’t hire them, they’ll get an STD and raise the premiums on the insurance you’ll have to pay as employer [thanks a lot Obama])! what else…oh anyone over 60 should really not be considered b/c they probably have a lot of old people illnesses that will keep them away from work. Hmmm, middle aged women don’t have to worry about pregnancy (and period cramps as you astutely mentioned), but now they have to raise the kids, so they’re definitely out! Younger men are too enlightened and they may end up pregnant and taking care of kids themselves! What a bunch of girls. You can’t use them in your business. Who does that leave? oh what a surprise–it leaves middle-aged man children who are so immature that they can’t control they’re giggles when they see an attractive lady and also can’t be bothered to take on the responsibility to parent their children. Great! You guys have done so much for our nation already, and now you can play golf and end it with a refreshing circle jerk.

  • tiakirish30

    I haven’t read all the comments, but it seems the outcry has been overwhelmingly negative. Here’s a different perspective: I used to work under a woman who was fortunate and blessed to get pregnant and start her family. While she was on a three-month maternity leave, I did her job AND my own. When she came back, she decided she wanted to be part time to spend time with her little baby girl. It worked out for our office; I was promoted and a part time position was created for her. But think about the negative possibilities? What if there wasn’t someone in the office with the institutional knowledge to do her job for three months, and willingness to replace her when she came back part time? What if we couldn’t create a part time position for her? Every person can be replaced ultimately, but there is a learning curve and your business doesn’t stop running when someone leaves – or takes a three month hiatus. There has to be contingency plans for new-parent leave. That is the heart of why question of family planning should be relevant – for men and women. Because when a crucial member of your team leaves for an extended period of time, everyone else has to pick up the slack.

    I am a woman and one day, further on down the line, I would like to have a family. If someone asked me about those plans, I wouldn’t be offended. I wholeheartedly agree it would be wrong to NOT hire someone for hoping to get pregnant (because that’s an argument point in and of itself – it can take years for some women to get pregnant), but I do not think it is wrong to be prepared for that possibility when projecting your staffing needs.

  • disqus_XkXuJAqmJG

    Two things Gene: 1) stop calling us “girls” (when a good-looking girl appears…she seemed like such a nice girl!). 2) the question of what a woman’s plans are for having children isn’t even very helpful. As a professional woman who had a child I can tell you that it is difficult to know what your plans are, when you will be able to make them happen, and what you will want to do once you have a child. So stop focusing on that and decide who is best qualified.

  • jjmargolis

    I can honestly say that I’ve never thought about whether a prospective employee–male or female–will have a child. But if they do, they little one gets a teddy bear.

    What about men who, gasp!, take time off when they become fathers? They get hostility too. Not that there’s equality here, because so few men take much time off to support their wives/partners/husbands. We need to change that, too.

    What we really need to change is our inhuman attitude toward work.

  • http://www.facebook.com/patrick.shea.7583 Patrick Shea

    Our problem
    here stems from the fact that we continue to live in a patriarchal system within
    all institutions in our society and culture.
    Women are expected to become a part of the corporate world based on the
    guidelines set by men. I could not disagree
    with this article more. And to pass blame
    onto women is absurd. Again, this is all
    based on the male sphere. When women
    began to emerge in the workforce, they were coming into an environment that had
    not shifted. I don’t think it is unreasonable
    to akin this to inviting women basketball players to play a game of soccer with
    me. Both are sports, but they have to
    play the game of soccer and its rules only.
    Women need not be the ones to change.
    It is the paradigm which we live in that must be changed.

  • RedStateGoodState

    I am sick of all these woman whining about pay inequality.
    Who can afford to hire someone that may need to leave their job for more
    than a week. It’s the twenty first century, get over it already!

    First off, women are biologically different than men, a.k.a
    UTERUS!!!!!! If we weren’t supposed to take care of the children, why
    would God give them to us (don’t even get me started on Lesbians). Our
    bodies are designed for childcare, while men’s big muscles are designed
    for work. Additionally, men’s brains are more mathematical in nature,
    allowing the calculus of logic to overtake emotion. Could you imagine
    what would happen if women designed spaceships for NASA? What kind of
    propellant would they use, love and good feelings? As you can see,
    feminism is a scientifically inaccurate ideology.

    God knew what he was doing. That’s why he wrote the BIBLE. His book
    c-l-e-a-r-l-y states that the women is the man’s slave. Why would a
    slave make more than the master? You don’t like it… to bad. That’s what
    the bible says. You HAVE to live by it if you don’t want to end up you
    know where. Now I’ll admit, it can get confusing. For example, my
    fiance, who is my master, tells me to have sex with him even though the
    Bible says that you MUST wait until your marraige. I don’t like
    violating my principals, but I’m not in charge here. Now, some may say
    that’s unfair, but really, it comes down to productivity. My boyfriends
    bigger muscles and brain simple make him more productive.

  • RedStateGoodState

    am sick of all these woman whining about pay inequality.
    Who can afford to hire someone that may need to leave their job for more
    than a week. It’s the twenty first century, get over it already!

    First off, women are biologically different than men, a.k.a
    UTERUS!!!!!! If we weren’t supposed to take care of the children, why
    would God give them to us (don’t even get me started on Lesbians). Our
    bodies are designed for childcare, while men’s big muscles are designed
    for work. Additionally, men’s brains are more mathematical in nature,
    allowing the calculus of logic to overtake emotion. Could you imagine
    what would happen if women designed spaceships for NASA? What kind of
    propellant would they use, love and good feelings? As you can see,
    feminism is a scientifically inaccurate ideology.

    God knew what he was doing. That’s why he wrote the BIBLE. His book
    c-l-e-a-r-l-y states that the women is the man’s slave. Why would a
    slave make more than the master? You don’t like it… to bad. That’s what
    the bible says. You HAVE to live by it if you don’t want to end up you
    know where. Now I’ll admit, it can get confusing. For example, my
    fiance, who is my master, tells me to have sex with him even though the
    Bible says that you MUST wait until your marraige. I don’t like
    violating my principals, but I’m not in charge here. Now, some may say
    that’s unfair, but really, it comes down to productivity. My boyfriends
    bigger muscles and brain simple make him more productive.

  • Eve

    Wow.. and so this discussion continues!
    As others have mentioned ANYTHING could happen while you are working- you could get sick, have a family member get sick, decide you hate your job and quit..
    Most women are only taking 6 weeks off for maternity leave now or less, because they are scared of exactly this- discrimination! For the record I’ve seen people take that much time off to plan a wedding and honeymoon- both male and female (maybe screen for those!)
    I work in a pretty high powered position, but you bet my male co-workers (who have worse sales numbers ) have always had more opportunities, time off.. understanding of their personal situations etc.
    I once saw paperwork of a new male employee and he was making 15k more than I was.. 15k. I had a discussion with him about the hiring and he said he never even negotiated! Needless to say we (women) all got 20K raises that year. He had at least 5 years less experience than our least experienced female sales co-worker!
    But what really gets me is that we are not even supposed to mention money in interviews- as we really would like to work for nothing cause we are civic minded like that. And of course we can be fired for ANYTHING at ANYTIME!!! But I owe an employer who I bust my butt for on a daily basis information on when/if I EVER plan on having a child?!!!

    The truth is if a woman decides to get pregnant there is plenty of time to make other arrangements, hire a temp worker for that time etc.
    To the woman who stated that her co-worker took time off and she had to work for her and then they created a part time position etc etc and things worked out…(but she was still complaining) I hope you never have a serious illness (I did under age 32) or have a parent diagnosed with cancer, or get in a serious car accident.. because I bet no one would be willing to do the same for you, obviously! Like no other woman would jump at the opportunity to help you- we hate helping others!

    The big issue here is also women- but only because we build these divisions between working mothers and stay at home.. we all hate each other (I don’t have kids yet). I hear this stuff all the time “she is so lazy cause all she does is take care of her kids and not work” or “she should stay at home, that’s what the Bible says”

    It really amazes me that the author admits that these men have the mental age of 12.. are children considered fit (by law) to run organizations? Kids at 12 can’t even buy cigarettes! Maybe the bigger question here is- why are they still working? There should be a law against that and a maturity/IQ test for all men prior to hiring..?

    The author clearly doesn’t understand women are not paid equally for the same job, discriminated against at every turn, unable to move up not because they don’t want to, but because they can’t !

  • NGPM

    Most of the people critiquing the author ad hominem seem not to have read the article, nor to understand the practical consequences of NOT being able to ask such questions.

    First of all, understand that “protected categories” give HR departments the willies. If I invite a woman, a black, a homosexual or a medically afflicted person in for an interview and for whatever reason end up giving the job to a healthy straight white man, there is a chance I might quickly be asked to prove in court that I did not refuse to hire that person on the grounds of sex, race, sexual orientation or medical condition. Even if I had a reason for choosing the candidate I chose that has nothing to do with sex, race, sexual orientation or medical condition, a lawsuit is going to be highly unpleasant. Even if I win.

    So how do HR departments deal with this situation? In many cases, they simply decline to invite candidates who belong to such protected classes in for interviews. It’s not necessarily because they dislike women, blacks, gays or sick people; it’s a pre-emptive maneuver to protect the company from the lawsuit. And since applications are usually confidential (i.e., you will have almost no shot at knowing who the other candidates are and sometimes not even whether the company has received your application), it is very difficult or impossible to prove that HR engaged in such discrimination.

    For women, this is a particularly thorny problem, since sex is usually immediately obvious on looking at the given names, and therefore all the easier to discriminate against women in the screening process. (Of course, in the age of the social network, it is almost impossible for a hiring manager willing to do an extra 30 seconds of work not to be able to find out someone’s race, and depending on how vigilant the candidate is with Facebook, et. al., his sexual orientation as well. By the way, in some countries, such as France, it is standard practice to put a photo on one’s CV.)

    Knowing this, we come to our second point. The fact that women are the ones getting pregnant means that they are far more likely than men to use Family Leave – and more likely to opt for more of it.

    Now, imagine you are the big boss of a small or medium-sized business. You are launching a major project that you predict could quintuple your company’s revenues over the next four years. You need to hire an expert professional for your team, and due to the high-intensity pace of the project it will be very difficult to replace this person in the middle of it all.

    So do you want to risk taking on a staff member who might possibly become pregnant and take a significant leave – or quit – right in the middle of the project? Probably not. And yes, men might well take family leave, as well, but it is a fact that we are less likely to do so. As an employer with a high-stakes project coming up, you want to minimize the risk to your company. So, you choose… not to call back any women who apply!

    Seem unfair? Perhaps it is. But that is reality, and there is little outsiders can do about it. Unless we develop technology to the point where we can remotely detect and prosecute discriminatory intention the way homicidal intention is prosecuted in “Minority Report.” (For my part, I wouldn’t see that as a particularly positive development.)

    And maybe it is simply the case that our present psychological approach to work/life balance, where the choice is usually completely dichotomous and we have to sacrifice one for the other with no overlap between the two, isn’t a particularly healthy one. But it is the present reality and it is a near-constant of industrial civilization. Let’s take things one step at a time.

  • NathanK

    This is the most idiodic article. It makes no sense.