Don’t Hire Women: They Get Pregnant And Leave
Just twelve days ago, Simon Murray became the chairman of Glencore, one of the world’s largest commodities trading firms. In what must be one of the quickest scandals ever to threaten a new top executive, Mr. Murray gave an interview that showed contempt for professional women.
According to Britain’s The Telegraph, he said that women:
“…have a tendency not to be so involved quite often and they’re not so ambitious in business as men because they’ve got better things to do. Quite often they like bringing up their children and all sorts of other things. All these things have unintended consequences. Pregnant ladies have nine months off. Do you think that means when I rush out, what I’m absolutely desperate to have is young women who are about to get married in my company, and that I really need them on board because I know they’re going to get pregnant and they’re going to go off for nine months?”
Mr. Murray was hired to lead Glencore through an already-controversial $60 billion initial public offering (IPO), in which investors and public institutions would buy shares in the Swiss-based company. But some British journalists are already speculating he may have to step down as a result of his misguided comments.
In response, Mr. Murray issued one of those lame half-apologies, in which the offender apologizes less for his offensive language than other people’s reactions to his words:
“I apologise for any offence caused by my comments regarding the role of women in business reported in the Sunday Telegraph.”
Mr. Murray should have learned from the gender landmines that have already been set off by other chief executives, including former Harvard President Larry Summers (who said women have less aptitude for science and engineering) and former Maryland comptroller William Donald Schaefer (who asked a woman 60 years his junior to walk past him again so he could check out her behind).
Most importantly, this isn’t just about Mr. Murray’s sexism. It’s about his judgment. Executives are fairly expected to exercise good judgment as leaders – and any executive who commits such an offensive unforced error should be regarded as unfit to lead.
Thank you to reader @etahpilac for sending me this story idea.
If you like this blog, why not sign up for our free monthly email, packed with tips to make you a better public speaker and media spokesperson? Sign up box on the upper right of the blog.
Oh my God! And he is supposed to be smart enough to run a $60 billion company? I know we’ve all had our moments where we hear ourselves saying something that we want to immediately take back, but this? Really?
I’m fairly certain his media-PR team began preparing for ritual suicide the moment he finished that sentence (just kidding). But Mr. Murray obviously paid no attention to his media training brefings for this interview.
It never ceases to amaze me that such educated and experienced people do this sort of thing. Early on in my career, a senior executive was scheduled to do an interview with a local newspaper. He was prepped on all the issues and mock interviewed. During the interview, he was asked about one of those key local issues. No doubt to the reporter’s delight, he then proceeded to denigrate the area’s largest workforce. Needless to say the letters to the editor and follow-up stories flowed like a dam break, and naturally it was all PR’s fault.
We still have many senior executives who feel they know better than the professionals they hire to help them media interviews. I don’t know for certain that Mr. Murray feels that way, but appears certain he didn’t listen to his PR team. And as you point out, it shows a great lack of judgement.
As always a great post and analysis, Brad.
Ain’t that the truth – PR folks prepare an executive well, executive ignores the training, interview fails, executive blames the trainer.
What amazes me about this one is how completely unnecessary it was. He was hired to help lead a $60 billion IPO, and should have remained almost solely focused on that goal. Instead, he used one of his first interviews to pontificate about the role of women in the workforce. Some people never learn…
Thanks for commenting!
All I can say is, wow…I am speechless! It amazes me to hear or read interviews where executives (or politicians) say things in the media without considering their audiences’ reaction or the fallout as a result. It goes to show that even with the best PR preparation, people are still human. And some people are just ignorant.
I always appreciate that you share these media cases and offer your take on them, Brad. Even the ones like this that make me want to punch my computer screen 😉
Thanks for your comment! It occurs to me that I only wrote about the external reaction, but should have also mentioned the likely internal fallout. If you were a female employee at his company, wouldn’t your morale have dropped to the floor with this comment? (I’d hope many men shared the same jaw-dropping reaction).
As for punching your computer screen, you’re not alone. Mrs. Media Training was similarly upset when I told her about this story. 🙂
Thanks for reading,
This is amazing. If people ever wonder why there is a gender gap or velvet ghetto in most fields it’s because men like this say things like this. It’s really unbelievable. What’s interesting is during an interview, some look for the wedding band or a mention of children. It’s pitiful but true. I think this guy was just one of the few that was naive enough to actually mention it in an interview while some feel this way anyway.
I’m sorry – we can’t help the fact that God made us this way. I hope he’s working on his exit speech as the internal fallout would be unbelievable. And pardon pointing this out, but since when do women take 9 months off to have a baby? Isn’t it more like 6 weeks? He should really do his research before openly discussing this publicly.
Please post an update to this story if there is one. And thanks for sharing!
Thank you for your comment!
I knew this story would upset a lot of people, but I believe in that expression, “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” If we continue exposing these creeps and making sure there’s some public shaming for bad behavior, perhaps it will fade into the 1950s, where it belongs. Thank goodness most men I know don’t think this way…
Thanks again, and please keep on reading!
Agree. Flogging will continue until morale improves. 🙂
This guy has it all wrong. I like the philosophy of hiring people that have a life outside of work. It often leads to more efficient work (involved moms and dads alike have to leave the office on time so they get their work done faster), healthier employees (both mentally and physically), and a more diverse and richer workplace. If everyone you hire is an ambitious, 30 something male your organization will be more susceptible to group think errors(everyone’s the same), infighting and unhealthy competition. Looking forward to hearing about Mr. Murray’s resignation.
Yet another good point. I swear, readers of this blog have to be among the smartest out there.
Gee, what is his version of a compliment: you’re not a bad worker for a big, fat pregnant lady?
Just proves you can pay for excellent media training, but you can still light your reputation on fire, the experts be damned!
Never mind that working mothers – and fathers for that matter, because I don’t like to exclude anyone from the party – are really good at multi-tasking, budget crunching and time management. I would never say that childless professionals are “less than” those who’ve seen fit to perpetuate the species (you know, future workers), it’s just a different set of quals. No good boss hires the same type of person for every last job opening – diversity is key in all things. You never know, that next million-dollar aha moment may come from the gal (or guy) up for a 2 a.m. feeding. And one last thing – moms with kids put a real emphasis on good manners, to include apologies – real apologies, unlike Mr. Murray’s.
Each man has the right to be as biased as he likes, he just can’t share it with the world and expect to keep his job.
My God, as a man I am insulted by his ignorance, as a husband I am ashamed he shares my XY, and as a father of a daughter I am furious that any man like him could be in a position of leadership.
With respect to media training, please tell me who trains their executives to avoid being sexist idiots. There’s plenty of time spent on messaging, focus, awareness of audience, and other interview skills.
I have yet to participate in media training where the trainer felt it necessary to point out the error of holding this kind of sexist opinion.
As a member of his PR team, I might resign in protest, but I’d fight like hell any attempt to lay blame on my department.
There must be a saying for this kind of executive flame-out. If not, I think we should invent one.
It’s really sad that there is still such sexism facing women in the workplace. It’s more common than many people want to believe.
Acutally, he has a very good point. In the military, there are a surprising number of women who purposefully get pregnant so that they will be sent home. Men don’t have this “option”. Being in a top position of leadership, Simon Murray did not get there based upon sexist remarks nor ignorance. Not all women should be caterogized as being “unfit” to hire because of family concerns, but we cannot throw out the facts – women do receive an exhorbitant amount of time off for having a child. If men could have children, they’d be doing the same thing. It’s just the nature of the beast, and it’s not sexist to say so.
I don’t think he was being sexist, I think he was just telling the truth. for a 60B worth company, maternity leave is still affordable. But if you’re trying to start out a small business and cannot afford to pay for Maternity leave then you cant blame the owners for not wanting to hire women.
The bottom line is, the more effort and time you put into your job the more likely it is you will go up the ladder. Why should someone who works less be given more then the person who works more? it’s just common sense. Of course men are more likely to get CEO positions, they’re more likely to put more effort in for longer.
[…] the not-so-distant past, companies would even use the idea of potential pregnancy to avoid hiring more women. It’s […]
It’s funny how everyone commenting is righteously indignant, but all ignoring the inconvenient elephant in the room: What the man said is objectively and absolutely true.
Simon David; maybe what he said is particularly true. I actually stumbled upon this article after searching “get hired then get pregnant” because I just watched a woman (maybe a few years older than myself) get hired at my company, and about 3-4 months later (after the probation period) she’s pregnant.
I have nothing against people who want to procreate… but I figured, wow… really? You *just* got hired here! Hell, I could do that if I wanted but a) I don’t want kids and b) I was just hired less than a year ago and I would find it … rude.. to suddenly decide, hey, I’m going to get pregnant and then you have to pay me for a year and I can stay home.
Yes, raising a child for the first two years is probably really hard. Probably harder than an 8-4/9-5 situation because you are ALWAYS ON CALL… but, what about paternity leave? Can’t we swap out and have the dad stay home if he wants for a year? Why isn’t paternity leave longer? I suppose it’s because the woman makes the breast milk… we could pump?
I think what he said was out of line, but it is his opinion and I don’t entirely see it being incorrect… If he is hiring in the 30-something age bracket (or hell, even the later 20s), then he is likely going to find the situation in which the woman he hires will want to start a family…
All I am wondering is, what about us that want to pursue our careers, child-free. Is he going to assume? And, asking the question in an interview is not permissable. And I would expect anyone asked such a question to inform the interviewer that that is private information not pertinent to the job at hand…
And to the comment regarding women who “fail” to make it to CEO position… This is likely because of biased-thinking such as we’ve seen here with Mr. Murray, as well as the fact that regardless of marital or familial status, women still make a PERCENTAGE of what men do, doing the EXACT same job… That is the glass-ceiling/inequality issue. There is more inequality than we care to examine, it seems. And the men at the top are reluctant to let women into their boys’-club. We just need to keep exposing creeps like Mr. Murray and let the public, and the working men and women push for equality. We still don’t have it. *Holding a chart of the variance in pay between educated men and women in the fisheries biology field*.
Either way, and regardless of truth, refusing to hire someone because of their sex, race or religion, or whatever other defining qualities we can throw in there, is prejudice. ‘Nuff said.
The sad part is, literally EVERYTHING is right in his sentences.
However, when reality faces feminism, reality must yield.
Women are liabilities for a startup company. Every company in that position would be smart to avoid them for reasons of simple efficiency. Much like you would avoid hiring myopic pilots.
The problem is that women like to employ a particular brand of solipsism, that alloows them to even avoid these kind of obvious truths.
I disagree with virtually everything you wrote, but will allow you to express your views here. The 1940s worldview you articulate has been widely and rightly discredited and left behind in the dustbin of history.
My experience is that the article is correct – not politically correct but correct nonetheless.
Women I have worked with who have gone on maternity leave say they will come back but in reality you don’t know if they will – in the cases where I worked they didn’t – except for one who then immediately demanded to work part-time, which was totally impractical for her high powered travelling role.
I don’t think anybody who takes 6 months off should have the automatic right to return, you then have to get rid of their temporary replacement who you have just trained up. We have to compete in a very difficult world and it isn’t realistic.
Frankly if I was given the choice of a young woman or an older woman of similar skills I would discount the younger woman – and if full paternity leave is brought in that would then apply to men too.
Of course this is a totally hypothetical situation. You would just have to lie about your reasons as it is illegal, because ultimately if it results in financial difficulties (as it did in one small company I worked for) nobody could care less.
Quite frankly it will be difficult for small business owners to hire young women who are about to get married and have kids. When you have your own business, any mistakes or costs will be sole responsibilities for you, and you will be paying blood sweat tears to raise other people’s children, and also undertake the stress and chaos trying to fill in for office work, which you cannot easily afford to hire new people and you have to pay extra for your other staff members to do the work. I do believe anyone will think twice if you have to pay minimum 20K in cash out of your own pocket for someone else baby, and this baby may not even know who you are in his/her life time.
On the other hand, big corporations have more staff, have more resources, and who will be buying the bills? — the shareholders. So the risks are much more divided and not as great for small business owners as for big corporations. However, for small business owners, if this lady who is about to get pregnant has worked for your company for several years and demonstrate good faith and bring in much income, it will be a wise investment to support her with her family plan 🙂 But to be honest, finding good qualities labor with less cost is every business’ ultimate plan and dream, but not an easy tradeoff option though…