The internet has been abuzz during the past couple weeks over an anti-diversity email that was sent out at Google. The employee who wrote the email claimed that “gender gaps at Google are the results of biological differences between men and women” and the company should rethink its diversity hiring practices. That employee has been fired, but unfortunately, this kind of thinking isn’t isolated to Google or even the tech industry. One of the reasons gender-based diversity hiring programs exist is because women encounter biases during the hiring process – particularly in interviews – that can prevent them from getting a position they are otherwise qualified for. In this blog post, we’ll outline common gender biases women encounter during job interviews and why each one is misguided.
It’s illegal to ask women if they have children or have any future plans to become a mother in job interviews, as well as about the candidate’s marital status. However, that doesn’t stop hiring team members from making assumptions.
Even though men also have family obligations outside of work, women overwhelming face speculation about their ability to accomplish work-related tasks if they also have parental responsibilities. Some common assumptions are that women will have to leave early to take care of their children or go on extended maternity leave if they have a child. However, in our modern society, many couples share parental and financial responsibilities so men also have to balance work and fatherhood duties or go on paternity leave to care for a newborn, even though they rarely encounter a stigma about it in job interviews.
It’s definitely a stereotype but it’s common for men to be viewed as natural leaders, while women can be seen as timid or unassertive in the workplace. This assumption can prevent women from being hired for management positions and is a big reason why they are underrepresented in the executive-level in major companies.
This stereotype is perpetuated by media and pop culture but the obvious truth is leadership abilities differ from person-to-person rather than between genders. Some women are born leaders or acquire the skills throughout their lives, while many men have no ability or interest in holding a position of power.
This stereotype contradicts the last one, however, women also face assumptions about their ability to manage their emotions in the workplace. And similar to the previous stereotype, it’s ignorant because every person, regardless of their gender, has a different level of emotional intelligence.
There can be a perception in the workplace, and other areas of society, that assertive men are strong leaders but women with the same characteristics are “bossy” or “mean.” This idea is likely left over from a time, not a long ago when women were expected to stay quiet and follow the orders of their male bosses. The fact that some men can’t handle taking direction from female leaders is another reason there aren’t enough women in executive-level roles.
It’s outdated thinking, but there are still certain jobs some people deem as better suited for either men or women. This perspective can prevent people of any gender from pursuing their true passion and from feeling comfortable and welcome when joining a new team. That being said, women encounter this stigma more often than men and for a larger variety of professions. It’s especially prevalent in the tech industry, where there have been too many publicized instances of sexist behavior, in addition to the recent Google email.
It should go without saying that the ability to do tasks related to any job hinges on the person’s skills, work experience and education – not their gender.
Associating “biological differences” with the ability to accomplish job responsibilities is ignorant thinking, to say the least. That outlook and other biases women encounter in their careers are why gender-based diversity hiring programs are necessary.
Having a diverse team in your company has a lot of advantages. People of different backgrounds bring their unique perspective to the table and can help people with unenlightened outlooks realize they’re wrong.
Photo courtesy of Matheus Ferrero
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