A few days ago, my university held a huge career fair, where literally hundreds of tech companies and start-ups came to interview and recruit students. I overheard a student talking to another one about a friend who was pregnant and was having a really difficult time getting a job offer. He said the interviewers often mentioned something along the lines of, “If we hire you, you’re going to give birth in a few months, and then you won’t be able to work. So why should we hire you?”
My mother had given birth to me when she was in grad school, and I remember hearing stories from her about how she’d faced similar criticisms when she went for job interviews. I was 2-3 years old at the time, and employers would often consider her ineligible for a job because she had the burden of a child and/or a husband – “You have a young baby?/You’re married? Oh, so that means you can’t travel? Then we can’t hire you.” Also, she was an international student / immigrant, so sometimes the interviewer would accuse her of wanting the job just for the green card.
It occurred to me that I was hearing about young women – smart, talented women who attended one of the best technical institutes in the world – facing the exact same problems that my mother did when she was a graduate student. It has been almost 25 years, a quarter of a century. Why does it seem like things haven’t changed much at all?