Friday, 6 September 2013

A Womb of One's Own

Last night I read this article by Lucy Mangan for Stylist.

(I'm aware by the way I do bang on about Stylist a lot. That's because it's free and I like things that are free).

The article reports facts and figures which are concerning in 2013:

"Recent analysis of various figures by the House of Commons Library has revealed that up to 50,000 of the 340,000 women a year who exercise their (absolute, legal) right to a year’s maternity leave are denied the most crucial part of that right – not to have their jobs taken away or rendered unrecognisable as the same one while they are otherwise (and, I say once again, fully legitimately) engaged."

It reminded me of a rather bizarre, and in retrospect disgusting, interview I attended at a large training provider back when I lived in Kent. This incident would've taken place around 2008.

I was interviewed by a rather mousey woman with bulging eyes, and a voice I had to strain to hear. I was interviewed in one of the training rooms, so surrounded on all sides by an unnerving combination of those protruding peepers, and blank, silently judging monitors.

Alarm bells started ringing after I was asked, despite showing paperwork of my IT/ECDL qualifications which also outlined my having used it in offices:

"Do you put your fingers in the correct place when you type?"

Many years ago I completed online DIY courses in touch-typing which did indeed show you how to "put your fingers in the right places" and of course built up my speed a heck of a lot chatting to mates on MSN Messenger. I hovered my hands over one of the keyboards and stared at my digits...

"Err, yes?"

I was thinking "What the fuck does that matter?" but it is a training company and they want everything 'just so', so fair enough, I must set a good example.

We somehow moved on from qualifications and experience and finger-placement to my personal life.

She asked how old I was, I believe, as I had stopped including it on my CV in order to reduce the effects of age discrimination. Foolish of me to put it on there to start with.

Then she dropped the clanger.

You're not planning on running off and having a baby any time soon, are you?"

"Umm, no...!" I managed to splutter.

She continued, oblivious of the consequences this could have for the reputation of the company even having the audacity to ask that question, "It's just we train these girls up and it's such a shame when they run off and don't come back."

She then proceeded to prattle on about all the extra learning I would be expected to do outside of work hours, a subject I don't believe was mentioned in the job description, but I'd already switched off, realising my mistake entering the building, already thinking about my dinner and day-dreaming about miraculous publishing or editorial jobs on my doorstep coming up in the back of the Cuntish...sorry, 'Kentish' Gazette.

She wrapped up the interview by asking if I would be able to take the "piercing thingamy" out of my ear if successful. I had one of these at the time:


I recall staring in disbelief at her two dangling earrings.

"We are a professional company, you see..."

"And what about all the ex-students that come in looking for actual useful office skills who would recognise in me a kindred spirit, someone on the same wavelength?" But I kept that one to myself, of course.

I was unsuccessful, of course, but I didn't lose any sleep over it. Months later, I still felt uncomfortable when I thought back to it, so I brought it up with their Higher Uppers. How very DARE they ask about my intentions to spawn?!

I never had a reply.