Until the end of the Second World War and even later, in many places around the world, women had to choose between a career and marriage. Those who decided to have a career knew that they had to give up having a family.
In Britain, for example, by law, being a teacher or working in the Civil Service meant that the woman remained a spinster. Only in 1944 did the Education Act enshrined that women teachers were not dismissed once they got married. Two years later in 1946 marriage bar was removed from female civil servants.
Marriage bar at the work place must have made life simpler, at least for men, especially if it meant that they went home, at the end of the day, to their wives and children. The women on the other hand, stayed in the office and worked. In a similar fashion, most teachers resided at their school, thus they were on call at all hours of the day.
Not having a family or private life ensured that the women, who chose to have a career were totally committed to their work. In those good old days there was no need to consider issues like maternity leave or sick children, since there were no children
Although in order to have a career women paid a high price, their compensation—the salary, by law, was always lower than that of the men. In Britain laws for equal pay for teachers were passed in 1952, and for men and women in the Civil Service in 1954.
Still, in spite of those old laws, today in January 2015 women are still paid less than men (even in Britain). Moreover, it seems that, not unlike the old marriage bar, companies today try to control the choices and the future of their women employees.
For example in 2014 Facebook and Apple announced that they would cover the expense of freezing the eggs of their female employees. Disguised as a generous concern for their female employees, those companies are gaining control of the biological clock of the women and set it according to their own schedule.
The decade between 30 and 40 is crucial for one’s career, but unfortunately it is also the last opportunity for women to have a healthy baby, and many times to have a baby at all. Like making a deal with the devil, this cynical move could harm women as it lulls them into believing that they could continue giving their best years to the company as the clock has stopped ticking.
Not every woman wishes to have children, it was true at the time of marriage ban and it is true today. But if she does she should not be the only one to pay the price.
Every career woman knows that she would most likely not be hired if she is interviewed for a job when pregnant. If she has a job her maternity leave, at least in the US, is ridiculously short. And back at work, she has to prove that motherhood has not made her an inferior worker.
Our society should resume its responsibility to working women. At a time when almost all women work outside the home providing better conditions for having a family is not a luxury, it is our future. Powerful companies like Facebook and Apple should lead the way not only in technological advances but in making the workplace women friendly.
Let’s make 2015 a better year for working women and their families.