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  • Shelly Elliott

Your Wife Makes Too Much Money: How my Husband Lost a Job Offer


This time last month, Scott and I were on cloud nine. After five months and countless hours of of job searching, paying over $500 to work with a resume and cover letter expert, applying for over 50 jobs, tailoring resumes and cover letters to those jobs, networking, preparing for interviews, and experiencing rejection, Scott had a job offer with a local non-profit. He didn’t have non-profit working experience, but Scott enjoys community service and goes above and beyond to help other people. He was looking forward to the chance to blend his marketing, PR, web, and social media skills with his personal passion to give something back. A wave of emotion and feelings washed over both of us when he got that phone call and shared the news; relief, joy, excitement, and hope that Scott finally caught a break, would be advancing his career, and bringing home a paycheck.

A few weeks later, I got home from work on a Friday afternoon and saw Scott sitting at the kitchen table, face pale and a blank look on his face, I knew immediately something was wrong. He told me that he got a call earlier that afternoon from the non-profit founder explaining that he no longer had any funding to hire Scott. The Content Marketing Manager position that Scott was hired for was tied to a grant that the non-profit had received. Part of Scott’s pre-employment process required him to go through a screening process at Career Link. As part of that process, we had to provide our current household income. At that time, our household income was only my income, and it had been only my income for the last five months. Apparently, there was a maximum income stipend that was part of the eligibility requirements for this grant. My income alone put us over that maximum income stipend, which made the non-profit ineligible for the grant if they hired Scott. This grant was going to pay nearly 100% of Scott’s salary, and the founder had no other budget to pull from to pay for the position. We were leaving the next day, Saturday, to go to the Smokey Mountains to hike, and Scott was due to start this job Tuesday. We sat there in shock, both feeling like we had been punched in the gut.

After the shock wore off, I felt so angry. A million thoughts ran through my head. Here was someone who wanted to work, had been actively job searching for months, hadn’t taken a penny of unemployment, and yet was being denied a job because his wife was a hard-working professional? Why should my career be held against him? Why wasn’t he being evaluated based on his experience, skillset, and interview performance? What kind of an example was this setting for women everywhere? Don’t be too successful girls or someday your husband may not be able to find a job?! What would Sheryl Sandberg, Sallie Krawchek, and Arianna Huffington say if this happened to their significant others? Is this legal? We pay our taxes! This is a grant!

My anger grew to become downright fury. I busted my ass through college to get my degree. I worked two jobs during the school year and always worked in the summer to have spending money, and I was very careful about how I spent my money (and still am). When I graduated from college, I still had money from my high school graduation in a safe deposit box at home that I never had to touch! Yes, I have a great job that gives me development opportunities and rewards me in multiple ways, including financially. But why does what I do influence my husband’s eligibility for a job? It’s not fair, but that’s life. Life doesn’t owe either of us anything. It’s not right, either, which is why I needed to tell this story. Taking legal or other action against a grant designed to help a non-profit feels like bad karma or bad juju, whatever you want to call it. Sitting around, letting this fester, wasn’t helping either. Writing about it felt necessary, not just to get it off my back, but to show just how far this society still has to go when it comes to issues like gender equality in the work place.

It’s been a really difficult month for both of us, obviously moreso for Scott than for me. He’s shown tremendous resolve and determination. The day he got back from Tennessee, he was back at it applying for jobs, in the wake of five months of constant rejection and having an opportunity swept out from under him. He’s had two more interviews in the last week, so we are staying positive, patient, and faithful in God’s plan. It isn’t easy, and we have good days and bad days.

I’ve been questioning a lot whether we made the right decision to come back to Pennsylvania from a career standpoint. Obviously, we made the right choice overall and for our personal life, but there’s a small part of me that keeps wondering “What if” and how it would play out for our careers. Would Scott have found a job he was happy with and quicker if we were still in Houston? Would I have as much responsibility as I do in my job now? Would I feel different about our situation? Scott’s never questioned our decision, and the last time I did, I thought to myself “What’s the point of even pondering this? It’s the past. It’s not reality, and it’s a waste of energy. We made a decision, and there’s no going back- only moving forward.” As someone who has always had strong control over my career, I realized this whole situation bothered me because I had no control over it. Scott had some control, but there were a lot of outside external forces exerting control: people or computers making the decision to interview him based on a piece of paper or to hire him based on spending 30 minutes in the same room with no representation of his work or to not hire him based on his wife’s income. It’s not fair. It’s not right. But if this is the worst thing that happens to us in this life, we will be very lucky.

#genderinequality #decisionmaking #reflect

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© 2020 by Shelly Elliott.

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