About 44 percent of the respondents to a Women In Optometry Pop-up Poll said that they have been asked—directly or indirectly—about their plans to have children. It is discriminatory to ask this question only of female employees, although potential employers can ask questions such as, “Are there circumstances that could keep you from working the schedule we’re proposing.” Although fewer male ODs responded to this pop-up poll, their responses mirrored the overall response.
Nearly half of the respondents said they have never been asked about their plans for having children, and 6 percent weren’t sure. There were 127 respondents to the poll.
Among those who said that they were asked about their family plans, 45 percent said that they answered the question as honestly as they could at the moment. Thirty percent said that they did answer but either felt uncomfortable doing so or hedged their answer somewhat. Another 12 percent said that they answered what they assumed was the underlying concern about their availability or scheduling concerns. Nine percent said that they asked the interviewer why he or she was asking that question, and six percent informed the interviewer that this question should not be asked. One male OD, who says that he asks this question of his male and female candidates, says that he answered it directly when asked because “it is a valid question.”
Ninety percent of the respondents who are in the position of interviewing candidates said that they do not ask this question in their interviews. Nine percent said that they don’t ask it outright but wish that a candidate would bring it up.
Eighty-four percent of the respondents were female ODs and another eight percent were women who work in the profession, but are not ODs. Just more than seven percent of the poll respondents were men.
One woman OD wrote in frustrated that two male OD owners who hired her did not provide the work agreement they had discussed until after she started the job, she said. The agreement include a 30 day limit on maternity leave, and they wouldn’t negotiate. She quit, noting that the whole discussion turned her off on the practice.
Several other respondents wrote in.
“I used to get asked by patients all the time.”
“I have had an employer ‘joke’ with me after hiring me that I wasn’t ‘allowed to have kids’ for a while.”
Age is a factor, as one woman OD wrote. “Due to my age, the prospective employer presumed I will no longer have kids, so it was never mentioned. When I was younger and not an OD, however, it was.”
And the laws are a factor as well. One Canadian OD wrote in noting the national policy is to have 1.5 years of maternity leave. “For a small business, it is hard to part with an employee so we know that if people are of birth-giving age, we will have to factor that in.”