Why working women should keep mum about baby plans

4 Mar

Amstrad boss and BBC1 The Apprentice host Lord Sugar has sparked some heated debate by suggesting that women should reveal their future family plans to potential employers.

Speaking in the House of Lords about the Davies report, and ahead of International Women’s Day, Lord Sugar said that discrimination laws preventing employers from asking women whether they plan to have a baby were “counter-productive”.

He added: “As things stand, regardless of current laws and regulations, interviewers are forced to play out some kind of psychological charade where they know their obligations under law but effectively in some cases make up their mind in advance about the prospects of employing the person sitting in front of them. I say women should be forthcoming when being interviewed, declaring their status regarding children and childcare so as to pre-empt the unanswerable questions in the mind of the interviewer and then focus on the most important thing – what skills they can bring to the company and why they should be employed.”

He said he would be impressed with a women who was upfront about her baby plans, and qualified his comments by saying: “Women in business are focused, determined and ambitious. In top management positions they place little importance on building ego and simply get on with the job in hand in a very efficient manner.”

Lord Sugar  has hired a woman from the last two series of The Apprentice. Stella English won the show in 2010, while the  2009 winner, Yasmina Sladatan, is currently on maternity leave.

On many of the online forums, such as Marie Claire, comments have been primarily outraged that Lord Sugar should suggest taking women back a generation in terms of their rights in the workplace, and dismiss it as nonsense. However, the Daily Mail has included comments from men who believe that employers shouldn’t foot the bill if a woman wants to have a family!

I agree with comments made by 2010 Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year Laura Tenison, founder of JoJo Maman Bebe, who told EN Magazine that Lord Sugar should keep his comments to himself.

I am stunned that a public figure wants to turn the employment law clock back, and make women feel guiltier than they often already do for wanting to balance a career with motherhood. Frankly, whether a woman has children or not has very impact on her ability to do her job – and, in many respects, being a mother helps women work more efficiently and decisively (that was my experience, anyhow).

Finally, I wonder if Lord Sugar plans to ask men about their plans to be a father – given that, from April 2011, men will be allowed to take six months’ paternity leave. I’d like to see the look on a man’s face when asked such a question at interview!

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