Three Questions You Should Never Ask Women at Work

The Three Questions You Should Never Ask Women At Work


There are some things that you should never ask a woman and no, we’re not talking about her age. Yet, time and time again women in the workforce are asked questions that most wouldn’t dream of asking a man. Here are the three questions that you need to scratch off of your list of things to ask women in the workplace.

Can women have it all? If you’ve ever attended a women in tech panel chances are you have heard some pretty cringe-worthy stories from female leaders on how they’ve been treated over the course of their career. You’ve probably also heard questions that seems to get asked every time a room full of successful women are brought together – Can women have it all? This question and others like it point to a dated dichotomous narrative where women can either have successful careers or happy domestic lives but not both. Unlike men, women with careers are put under the microscope for how they manage their time between home and their job. This narrative also ignores the fact that many spouses actively participate in domestic duties so that both partners can focus on both their careers and family.

What is your marital and/or family status?  A word of warning to all hiring managers, executives, and nosy co-workers is it never okay to ask a woman about her marital status, plans for having kids or her child-care arrangements during the job interview process or while working. These type of questions which are rarely put to men and hold no merit in evaluating a woman’s skills or ability to do her job. A recent survey of senior women in tech found that 75 percent of respondents had been asked one or more of these questions during an interview.

This underlying gender bias, assuming women with families or those considering having a family are or will be less dedicated to their role, put women at a disadvantage in the workplace. This can result in women being treated unfairly and denied the opportunity to advance, unequal pay, and and a lack of belonging on the job.

Not asking her questions and asking ‘him’ instead. A whopping 88 percent of women have had colleagues and clients direct questions to their male counterparts that should have been addressed to them. This unconscious bias that men know the answer or are in charge can lead to women feeling less engaged in the workplace. In tech, this has resulted in women being 45 percent more likely to leave their jobs than men.

In line with not being asked questions, women are often the victims of ‘Manterrupting’ and ‘Bropropriating’ In the case of manterrupting women are unnecessarily interrupted by a man or a group of men while speaking. Leading to women feeling less comfortable with speaking up in meetings. When it comes to ‘bropropriating’ a man will take credit for a women’s idea. In all of these circumstances, women are robbed of the opportunity to showcase their knowledge and abilities leading them to feel unsatisfied with their work and unable to advance their career.

The language used at the office will dictate the type of culture that is created—ensuring that women are not subjected to unfair questions or blocked from speaking should be top-of-mind for tech companies looking to attract and retain more women to their teams. It will also make everyone in the office feel more comfortable in the workplace.

Interested in learning more about equal opportunities in tech? Check out our Women in Tech page.