“If women really wanted to change society, they could do it. I plan to change it. I just want to get married first.”
The character Ally McBeal once said this on the show Ally McBeal. When the show started Ally was a single lawyer obsessed with finding the one so she could get married already. Perhaps Ally felt like because she was the single girl in her office that she wasn’t taken as seriously by the partners at her law firm as her married colleagues. Of course, she may not have been taken seriously because she hallucinated dancing babies on a regular basis, talked to herself and wore skirts that barely covered her ass but part of it could have been her single status. As Sheila Robinson Kiss, psychotherapist, author, humorist, and trainer, said “marriage represents a secret rite of passage in the eyes of many people that represents a sense of stability, reliability, and grounding.”
According to a recent Dutch study,women who keep their maiden name after they get married are more likely to make more money because they are considered to be more job-focused and professional. Professors at the University of Tilburg looked at the data of 2,400 married women. Three-quarters had taken their husband’s name, 7% had hyphenated last names and the rest kept their maiden names. According to their findings, women who kept their names had higher average education levels, fewer children they worked more and had higher salaries.
We asked a few women what they thought a ring on the finger did for them in their careers:
Tasha Mayberry, Vice President Marketing for Corporate Compensation Plans, said:
“I’ve been in the professional career world since age 22 and at age 27 became the VP of Marketing for an insurance brokerage firm…and yes, since I married my husband this past February, I am taken more seriously with clients, colleagues and the general business world. I notice this most when I’m attending or sponsoring a networking event, and when people notice the rings on my finger or I mention “My husband” they take me more seriously (I see it in there mannerisms, what they say to me, and how they follow up with me). Before, I felt that I was viewed as a young professional at events for the drinks and to socialize…but if they paid closer attention I usually always have water in my hand!
I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing however and although frustrating before I was married, I understand how this can be. Marriage equates to commitment, stability and a sense of values for me so I can see how this paradigm has formed. Then again, I think we are shifting as a society and putting more and more faith and value into young, unmarried professionals.”
Jody Privette Young of LymanPR.com said:
I can still never quite “shake” the experience of a large public relations firm in LA, with whom I was in the final phases of interviewing with, when one of the women interviewers asked if it was single. I answered honestly – yes. She asked me to stand up, glanced up and down and told me that I was not going to utilize their PR firm to “find a husband.” I was so annoyed, dismayed and shocked, I just left their office in shock. Many years later now, this experience haunts me and I can say I’ve had many better experiences in business since I’ve been married. Funny though it has tended to be the women who were more concerned whether I was married or not, and I’ve never been asked that or had it be an issue with the men with whom I’ve worked.”
A Grindstone reader commented on a recent post and said she has been told on multiple occasions by older women in her company that she would be taken more seriously if she were married. “It’s disappointing that experience is judged by the ring on your finger and the number of children’s drawings you have hanging in your office.” The woman’s colleague, who is married, said she has noticed this treatment too by older women of younger unmarried women. “I am married and my friend of the same age, with a bit more work experience, is single, but in a long-term committed relationship are treated noticeably different in terms of how coworkers perceive our level of experience and career levels.”
Jen Watkins said sometimes she wears a wedding ring in business situations even though she is single. “I have found that people don’t ask if you’re married, some brazenly will; but they respect you more, especially if you are younger, if they think you are married. Maybe they take it as a sign that you are committed to something or that you are more mature.” Emily Sims of Travelated.com said when she was interviewing for jobs she found that interviewers seemed to take her more seriously if she let them believe she was engaged. “My impression was that they felt I was in more of a ‘settle down’ mode if I was about to be married than if I was single. I understand that employers want to hire people who are likely to stick around, but being married doesn’t mean I’m going to stay longer.”
But on the other hand (literally), married women may get automatic stability points but we have also seen occurrences where women are automatically downgraded because they are married or engaged especially if they are entering those prime child-bearing years. “A flashy engagement ring may focus somebody on your marriage or family plans and distract from the substance of the meeting,” career coach and former HR director Bettina Seidman said. An employer might choose the employee not wearing the engagement ring over another applicant that wore one to the interview. Employers can’t legally ask about family plans but they can make assumptions based a ring. Seidman said, “I believe that being married (wearing a wedding band) often sends a message to managers that you have “other responsibilities at home” and cannot be counted on in a crunch. Also, there is always the suspicion that children will come first.”
Lori Bizzoco, CEO/Founder of a relationship site called, www.cupidspulse.com, said relationship status is like the “pink elephant in the corporate office.” She argues that single women can be looked at as reliably as well and should not be discounted because they don’t have a ring on their finger. She said:
“Couples have homes, families and obligations that make them more serious about the need for their job. This doesn’t mean that singles don’t also have these responsibilities but married women demonstrate it more openly with photos of their wedding day or children on their desk, making it known that they know how to take on responsibility. However, if you look at a single women’s desk, usually you see luxury pictures of their latest vacations, or night out on the town. It’s a big dichotomy from the responsibility of home, family and kids.
Singles are alone, trying to make ends meet which should be looked at as having even more responsibility than someone who has a partner to lean on. Singles (unless their single parents), don’t have as many reasons to leave the office, come in late or call in sick as married women. Their children won’t be sick, the house won’t have a leak or flood and they won’t be needing as many days off for a honeymoon, wedding or family problem. In actuality, single women are more reliable because they don’t have these same obligations. What’s even more interesting is that when push comes to shove, and management is looking for someone who can travel, for weeks at a time on short notice, who do they ask? They go right to the single women in the office because they have no obligations. So, who is really the reliable one here? Single Women or Married Women. I think this last paragraph says it all.”
Both states present different advantages in some people’s eyes and disadvantages in others. What does seem consistent is that women are caught between a rock and a hard place as usual. But they’ll figure it out. They always do.