IBM in alleged 'sexist, anti-pregnancy' uproar
Woman overhears alleged sexist discussion by IBM execs over lunch, Tweets about it.
If you’re executives from one of the world’s largest technology companies and you have a business meeting over lunch, it’s best if you don’t discuss extremely unpopular hiring practices within earshot of other diners- that’s what IBM may be learning after their employees are alleged to have agreed that young women present a risk as staffers as they may get pregnant, according to the Daily Mail.

Hidden hiring hysteria

Lyndsey Kirkham, a Toronto-based coder and feminist editor claims that she overheard two men at the table next to her discussing technology and women. Her disgust and disbelief grew as she says she heard them being “obnoxiously loud and belligerent” while discussing hiring strategies, especially when she says they made outrageous statements such as that they’d only hire mature women who aren’t going to have babies, and that women are more likely to take more time off as a result of family pressures.

According to Kirkham, they even named specific women in their department whom they claimed would be likely to take time off to have babies in the near future.

Kirkham took to Twitter to vent her outrage as she says the two older (50-plus) men in blue suits allegedly agreed that they wouldn’t hire women as they’ll just get pregnant “again and again and again”.

An editor and IT professional herself, she insists that women are discriminated against in the tech industry, specifically that there’s a generally sexist view that women are less capable than men of understanding and writing about the products.

She says that the two were from tech giant IBM, a company which recently gained its first female CEO; the company itself says in a statement that they will not discriminate against people applying for jobs there for many reasons including pregnancy, gender, marital status or age.

Know your rights

Many companies in SA are becoming more progressive when it comes to supporting women, including allowing for more flexible hours, work from home options and longer maternity leave. There are many tech companies locally with women employees as developers, marketers, writers and management. The tech environment remains one which has appeal to younger employees, and, certainly, some of those may indeed have babies, but whether a woman is working as a clerk in a store or as a developer in a tech company, women are protected by various labour laws which provide for them in the event of pregnancy and maternity.

Some women do choose to take a career hiatus in the early years of motherhood, while others choose to continue working after maternity leave. Some work as they cannot afford to live without the salary, and some work because they choose to work. There remains a stigma in both ways: a woman can receive hurtful comments that she is unproductive if she chooses to be a stay-at-home mom, or she may be accused of being somehow less of a mother should she go to work.

And that goes for dads, too!

There’s very little said of men in this type of conversation- dads are almost expected to carry on working. Of course, stay-at-home dads are still misunderstood, often being asked hurtful questions about when they’ll resume working (or dealing with assumptions that they’re incapable of holding down a job).

But a conversation such as the one alleged to have taken place would probably not revolve around the likelihood that a young man may be an employment risk for reasons of parenthood.

Hiring practices may not always be transparent: A woman may be told after an interview that she’s “not the right fit”, or, worse, may be grilled on her intentions about raising kids- an unethical line of questioning in an interview (and one which may see a potential employer sued for reasons of discrimination).

If you feel that your employer has somehow discriminated against you for reasons relating to pregnancy or maternity, you may want to consider legal action.

Here's more on working parents, stay-at-home parents and work-at-home parents:

Workable work solutions for moms

Slutwalk for boys
Which jobs are family friendly?

FAQs about breastfeeding and working mothers

A working mom is a happy mom

Why I'm a stay-at-home mom

Tips for moms who study

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