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Recently a second year MBA student reached out to me for a networking chat. After chatting for about 10 minutes she mentioned that she wanted my perspective on something that had been bothering her for the past few weeks. She then proceeded to very diffidently ask me if she should wear her wedding ring during job interviews. The minute the words slipped from her mouth she started offering caveats that this question seemed silly and I didn't really need to waste time answering it. Apparently it was "just" something that a few women in her year had been debating.
But this really is not "just" something. It is not a frivolous issue. If anything it highlights how hard being a woman in the corporate world is.
The debate is not really about a piece of jewelry. It is about the signal that piece of jewelry sends. Most women fear that the ring will make them less attractive to potential employers. The signal most women fear it will give is that I am a woman of child bearing age who is in a committed relationship with another human and therefore potentially will be less committed to your organization. These women feel they will be victims of unconscious bias and lose out in what is an extremely competitive MBA job market.
Many men and women who are not in this situation will roll their eyes and say these ladies are overthinking this issue / they are looking for excuses in-case they don't succeed. But, are the fears that these women hold truly baseless?
A couple (here I am assuming it is a heterosexual couple) becomes pregnant together but the experience that a man and a woman have as they navigate the 9 months of the pregnancy are very different. And no I am not talking about the physical aspects of the pregnancy. I am talking about what they hear from the people around them. Typically it is assumed that the woman will now "slow down", "focus more on the home front" - the unsaid assumption is that she will become less committed to her career, her capability will somehow reduce and somehow all her professional ambition will evaporate. While for the man it is very different. A to-be father suddenly comes across as someone "more stable" with a greater hunger and desire to succeed - the unsaid assumption is that he will become more committed to his career and have an enhanced desire to succeed because well he has to feed the family!
This is an assumption held by a large majority but not everyone. As a woman who wants to build her career while navigating the challenges of building a family it is critical to surround yourself with people who don't fall in this majority. You need to find organizations that let you lead a complete whole life and be your true authentic self. The sooner you find this, the happier you will be.
With all this going through my mind I took a deep breathe and offered this lady my perspective. If you need to hide such a large part of your identity to get the role then sooner rather than later you will realize that this particular organization is not the right place to build your career. Keep the ring and make sure you wear it to every interview....It will help you filter and find the right the kind of organization to build a career in!
I would love to hear from you, feedback is always welcome!
Amazingly captured Rashi!
There are so many unconscious biases in the workplace. What we can and should do is take the conscious call of trying to not define ourselves by these at our individual levels. By not surrounding ourselves with such people and by taking steps at our individual levels as well, we can work towards change.
Very well said. This is a very real issue, but my advice is to always be as transparent as you can as it’ll only help filter out places that aren’t a good fit. I wear girly outfits, show off my engagement ring proudly and have pictures of my family all over my desk. The reality is, if a group doesn’t accept me because of that, I never would have been happy there anyway.