22/07/2018 22:15 BST | Updated 22/07/2018 22:15 BST

How Do You React When An Interviewer Asks If You Have Children?

At the grand age of 31, and because I am a woman, my womb now seems to be subject to an interview

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It’s 2018 and I’m going to an interview. It’s the second round and this time I’m meeting a different stakeholder and determined to impress. I spent the night before preparing. The role I’m going for is part-time because I have some projects that I want to develop outside of work, and with the pay grade for this role, I can do that. Wonderful.

After what appeared to be a positive conversation, I’m asked one last question: “Now, this won’t screen you out but I understand the agency you’ve come through helps mums and dads get back into work after having children. Looking at you, I’m assuming you don’t have children, do you? Or any plans?”

I’m shocked. A thousand thoughts go around my head. After a split second of thoughts I realise I need to answer this, I think to myself: “I want this job, it’s just an attitude I’m going to have to work around.” So, I say no, I don’t have any kids, but I don’t go on to say about my future plans to have kids (which I don’t). I know that will cause one hell of a debate already and secondly, and I cannot stress this enough... it’s not any of his business what my vagina and I are up to and it’s against the law. Also, and I feel I should add this in (ridiculous, I know), the recruitment agency weren’t in the business of focusing on mums and dads, just recruiting part-time roles. 

I continue to explain that I have some projects outside of work that I want to dedicate time to. He presses on. He appears to be very interested, a bit too interested to the point of uncomfortable, particularly as my plans don’t involve children.

Soon after, the interview comes to a close and we shake hands and part ways. As I leave the building all I can think is what he said to me. I understand not a lot of people at my age would look at part-time work, but did the subject of children - whether I have them or want them - have any relevance to my abilities or the job? At the grand age of 31, and because I am a woman, my womb now seems to be subject to an interview.

I was not applying to be a surrogate mother. I was applying for a professional services managerial role. Interviews are to assess the ability to do a job and culture fit, not whether my uterus has, or is expecting to bear children. Quite frankly, at this point, if my uterus could talk it would be a resounding, “f*** off!”

In an age where we can pay for our coffees with our phones, talk to our devices and grow meat in a lab, why are women still subject to judgement for having, or not having kids? And why are women still having to dance around the issue with a smile on our face in fear of being disliked if we point out that those questions are inappropriate? Why should I have to feel that if I had children I would be considered a burden, or unwomanly for not having kids? Why is this interview simultaneously provoking an existential crises and a political/social argument in my head of what makes a woman? It was just a bloody interview.

What about men? Would the interviewer have asked a man those same questions? After all, it does take two to tango, and I understand that men also have a role in making babies. I have a very strong feeling that he wouldn’t have. Call it a hunch.

The interviewer did not write down any notes from our meeting, he hadn’t even appeared to have read my CV before we sat down, so what did he make his decision on? Many would say that our brains tend to retain the most information from the last thing someone said. And that child (you could also say child-ish) question was the last to be asked.

After the interview, I came up against another issue. Do I talk about what happened or not, or do I just move on and chalk it up to experience? Why was I so scared of talking about this? Unfortunately, this often is the case for any woman in a working setting. For many, speaking up lands you with the reputation of “pushy”, “a control freak”, or “bossy”. Speak up about something that happened to a woman that shouldn’t be happening, in many cases in the world of work, and be seen as an angry feminist ready to burn her bras at dawn.

In my case, it wasn’t just all of the above, it was the fear that this could negatively impact my job search, bring branded as the difficult woman. After all, who wants to hire a woman who is seen as “difficult”? 

I waited for four days for feedback after the interview and suffice to say, I got screened out.