Singlehood, Childlessness, and Career
I was recently flipping through the stations on TV and stumbled across the 1997 “chick flick” Picture Perfect. For those not familiar, this particular movie stars Jennifer Aniston as an aspiring ad agency professional who finds her career, despite her obvious talent, slightly hampered by the fact that she’s single. Her lack of attachment (no husband, kids, or mortgage) is the basis of her boss and the agency’s fear that she’ll develop relationships with key clients and then leave, taking those clients with her elsewhere, without a second thought. She feels so hampered that it prompts her to concoct a story with a fake fiancé and wedding plans to prove her “commitment to the firm;” her plans to settle down reaffirm that she is in no hurry to make a move anywhere else.
Now this movie is slightly dated and the world of work has certainly seen changes since its release, but I wonder if in some cases these types of fears still exist? One might argue not. If fact, Time Magazine’s recent cover story “The Childfree Life” discussed couples who choose to not have children, and the career opportunities that are often available to childless women that they may otherwise have to forgo. And one of our Women of HR contributors, Kimberly Patterson, recently explored the subject, and possible fallacy, of loyalty here.
However, despite these arguments, you have to wonder if the sort of mentality presented in Picture Perfect doesn’t actually still exist in some places and some companies. There are still many organziations where longevity and loyalty is rewarded, where service recognition programs are a key part of employee recognition strategies. I’m not claiming that all companies that recognize and reward loyalty think like this; I’m just wondering if in some corners of Corporate America, there are still executives and leadership teams who maintain these biases.
Having been single in the professional world for many years, I’ve felt both sides of this: the Time Magazine cited opportunities to travel, and the freedom to be a part of projects that may have been more difficult with commitments at home. But there have also been occasions where I’ve experienced Jennifer Aniston’s character’s feeling that I’m not quite the same as everyone else who is settled down with a family. I’ve never felt it hamper my career, but there are times (especially when company and charity events are centered on couples and/or families) that there has been a slight feeling of not quite belonging.
So I ask you…what do you think? Do these biases still exist? Are there places where women may be held back as a result of not being “settled down?” And if so, do these biases affect men the same way?
Futhermore, as HR professionals, should it not be partially our responsibility to ensure our companies are not excluding single and/or childless women (and men for that matter) from development and advancement opportunities?
I’d love to hear your comments below.
About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR has 15 years of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry. She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.
Photo credit iStockphoto