LOWERING THE BAR

I read another article tweeted by Better Male Allies this week; here it is:

6 Ways To Scare Off Technical Women From Your Company

I was particularly struck by the final item:

“Don’t do this: Lower the bar for female candidates. I once interviewed for a software engineering job on the same day that my husband interviewed with the same team for the same kind of role. When we compared notes afterwards, I was shocked at how hard his interview was. Mine was superficial and skirted any tough technical questions. We both got job offers, but I declined. I didn’t want to join a team that didn’t think I had the same technical chops as a man.

Do this instead: Design your interviews to be just as tough for women as for men.”

This really resonated with me.  I’ve attended interviews where I left thinking, “great, I sailed through that”, but received a call from the agency afterward to tell me that they wanted someone more senior.  I noticed a pattern – they were asking me extremely basic questions because they assumed that that was the level I operate at.  This would generally mean that I’d be asked only simple technical questions, and not anything more challenging or to do with the management aspects of engineering.  And this was in spite of the evidence on my CV that said I was more than capable.

But it gets worse.  I’ve accepted offers from firms after such a successful interview, to then be put in the most junior role on a team.  They interviewed me as a junior engineer, and so they employed me as one.  I’d be stuck doing menial churn work, with zero chance of progression.  And the team assumed I must be “new” as they’d been told by the interviewing panel that that was what they were getting.  Any attempts to query this were met with incredulity, because someone taken on in such a lowly position couldn’t possibly be so audacious as to challenge their authority.

Because of this lowering of the bar, the majority of my time employed in engineering has been in roles that I’m over-qualified for.  It’s demotivating and demeaning.  And while it won’t scare the women off until after the interview, it will cause them to quit.  And then the bosses will no doubt wring their hands over why women won’t stay, or where all the quality female candidates are.

WOMEN AND FEEDBACK

I wrote about two years ago on my unsuccessful quest for honest feedback, and found validation this month in a number of reports that back up what I was saying: that male leaders don’t like giving honest feedback to women.  Here’s the tweet that jogged my memory:

The article is linked in the image – click to go to hbr.org

Here’s another good article on the topic; the video link is worth a watch: Women Receive Worse Feedback Than Men, New Research Reveals (the title is a bit misleading, what they mean is that women receive feedback that is less effective than men do).

A central factor in this giving of half-hearted feedback is the worry that men have of offending or upsetting female staff.  Well, knowing that my career is stalled by unhelpful performance reviews is both upsetting and offensive.

I recognised this in my male managers – I can only think of one who spoke to me on the same level as the men in this regard.  And another actually confided in his boss that “he worries about me because I’m delicate and remind him of his wife” – how on earth could they provide me with professional feedback while holding such a sexist and inappropriate view?