Card Carrying Parents Beware

Back in the dark days of Senator McCarthy, being a card carrying member of the Communist party could cost you your career. In these presumably more enlightened times, it may not be politics which get in the way of that job or promotion you are seeking, but your affiliation with your own children.

Despite laws requiring that all applicants and workers be treated equally, regardless of caregiver status, a study conducted by the American Journal of Sociology has revealed that a significant number of employers discriminated against applicants who mentioned, in cover letters, that they were officers in elementary school parent-teacher organizations.

According to H R Magazine‘s recent cover story “Handle with Care,” the study consisted of resumes and cover letters for fictitious job applicants being submitted to real employers. The resumes reflected comparable qualifications. However some cover letters were designed to represent the applicants as childless, while others were designed to represent the applicants as having children. The fictitious women who were represented as mothers (those who mentioned that they served as officers for parent teacher organizations) received half as many callbacks as the fictitious childless women (those who mentioned that they served as officers for college alumni associations). Men participating in parent teacher organizations likewise received fewer callbacks than those participating in alumni associations, but the degree of discrimination towards fathers was not as pronounced as it was towards mothers.

The moral of this immoral story is that if you do volunteer work for any parent organizations, you should avoid referring to those organizations in any cover letter or resume you send out or post online. Likewise, if you assisting someone else with his or her resume or cover letter, advise them to do the same.

Of course, if you work in human resources, now is a good time to remind anyone involved in the hiring, selection, recruiting, or promoting process that a person’s status as a parent or a caregiver must not be considered when making employment decisions.


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