I get letters and phone calls and faxes and e-mail. This correspondence is edited.
Reader: I read your column about how blind auditions (performing behind a curtain) have opened up job opportunities for female musicians. I play the French horn and my teachers told me to be sure to wear sneakers at blind auditions so the judges can’t hear my heels clicking as I walk in - and figure out I’m female. I find much insight in your column. Keep charging ahead!
Comment: Thanks for the helpful hint. And I will keep charging ahead - in my sneakers.
Reader: Blind auditioning certainly helps promote women’s hiring, but increased enrollment in music schools also has a lot to do with it. You can’t hire a female musician, even in a blind audition, if she’s not in the market. And there still are so few African-American and other minority symphony musicians. As useful as they are, blind auditions are no panacea.
Comment: I agree. Affirmative action also is needed. But I don’t think there would be increased enrollment of women and minorities in music schools if there were no chance of getting a job.
Reader: Thanks for allowing me to see both the serious side (discrimination) of the subject of opportunities for women musicians as well as the ridiculous way it has been “man”-handled for years.
Comment: Thanks for your support. I got so many nasty calls from orchestra administrators that I figure I must be doing something right!
Reader: The Vienna Philharmonic (which ended its ban on women musicians) is actually an anomaly. Virtually every other symphony orchestra of note (pardon the pun) has women members. I would like to see more women conductors. However, things do improve: Once upon a time women were not allowed to sing female roles in opera. … Comment: You’re right: Things are improving. And maybe someday women and minorities won’t have to try out for orchestra jobs behind screens in order to have their abilities judged fairly.
Reader: In your column about musicians trying out for jobs behind screens, you humorously suggested that chefs, who are predominantly male, try out for jobs under a white, linen tablecloth, ironed by the applicant, and be required to create new recipes for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
You are so right!
I’m a woman who recently graduated from culinary school. If students made mistakes, the faculty (male) would call them, in a derogatory way, a “housewife.”
How ironic: I have a vision of my mother, a “housewife,” serving a seven-course Thanksgiving dinner by herself, except for some help from my dad, with everything hot at the same time and delicious. By contrast, a chef has at least two sous chefs working for him, a dish washer, a prep staff that peels potatoes and chops onions and a service staff that cleans up afterward.
Sometimes, I think of becoming a journalist, where there may be less discrimination.
Comment: Don’t let those creeps keep you from being the best chef in the world. Sexism is everywhere, including in journalism. Sometimes, I think of becoming a chef. Anyone for quiche Lorraine?
Reader: I am currently employed, job hunting and hoping to get pregnant. How can I find out about an employer’s maternity leave benefits and openness to part-time or flex-time work without giving myself away?
And if I do become pregnant and get a better job offer, should I tell them I’m pregnant? How do you handle these delicate situations?
Comment: Most job seekers routinely ask about benefits and family-friendly policies - a very wise thing to do - so don’t worry about finding out what you need to know, in advance.
As far as your plans for pregnancy, they are nobody’s business. Women fought for years to get the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act passed, which protects pregnant women in hiring and from firing. Your fertility has nothing to do with the job. It has no bearing (forgive the pun) on your employment.
Don’t bring it up in a job interview. Answer no questions about plans for a family or even if you currently have children until the job offer is made and you have to fill out forms for health benefits.
That’s the only legitimate context for such questions.
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