Recently I stumbled upon an upsetting question on Quora. It wasn’t upsetting in the classic “What type of rash is this?” way, but rather the “I’m a man and women are cute, but I won’t hire them” sort of way. This all too familiar song and dance is one I’ve frankly outgrown and I’m barely a grown adult. We’ve tackled the wage gap between men and women in the past here at Red Branch Media. While we’re proud that women globally continue to fight for the same rights that men have in the workplace (and otherwise), there are more subtle forms of sexism that while not the horrors our forbearers dealt with, still sting. These subtle shards of sexism invade a hiring process women have to deal with every day. Indeed, as women are increasingly tasked with being the breadwinners in their families and continue to pursue higher education in increasing numbers, it hardly seems fair that this sort of subtle sexism should be the one thing that gets in their (our) way. Subtle indeed, so subtle that at first glance, it almost seems like this young man’s heart is in the right place.
Do you believe there's still sexism in the hiring process? Click To Tweet
Here’s the question:
“I’m a founder of a small startup. I interviewed a very qualified and extremely good looking woman. How can I hire her and make this hire work, taking into account the effects her beauty will have on the team?
She is qualified and has the right attitude and perspective. She seems enthusiastic about the job and startup’s goals and values. I’d like to extend her an offer based on her qualifications, which makes me especially happy since she’s a woman and I want to promote women/women advancement in tech.
But she’s absurdly, jaw dropping gorgeous, probably models, etc. (I didn’t ask).
I have a girlfriend, but our small team are all males and mostly except for me, single. I don’t want to discriminate but… I’m worried they’ll all fall for her and this will be complicated, jeopardizing the business. At the same time, I don’t want her to not be able to be herself at her workplace, by taking measures to “tone it down”. What are some policies that we can implement or things to ask her to do?
Obviously, I’m desperate asking people here… I’m not sure who on my networks to ask for advice in real life because this probably is such a bizarre question. We’re very early stage so as you can see we don’t have policies set up really that clearly yet.”
Wow. As you can see, the founder of this company wants to do the right thing but is totally dazzled by this potential new hire. While you may be feeling sorry for him, check out this response from an executive recruiter:
“This answer is purposely confrontational as I do not agree with the premises of the question. This is an unfortunate reality in the world.
Turning the question around, would you have the same discomfort about an amazingly handsome man? I’m sure there is a reasonable chance that some of your team is Gay or Bisexual and by your logic that hire would be equally disruptive. What about hiring someone who is handicapped or (by your perceptions) very ugly?
As long as people continue to assume that adults cannot control themselves enough to do work in the presence of a sexually attractive person (or bothered by some other characteristics that has nothing to do with performance) we will continue to have obvious sexual (and other) biases across hiring and management selection…
—Connor Clark-Lindh, an Executive Recruiter
“Hire her and be ready to fire anyone who is unable to be friendly and productive in her presence.
Or admit that you have already failed to build a good team — since you’re afraid they won’t be able to handle her — and then, well, start building a new team.”
—Dima Korolev (one of Quora’s most viewed writers on recruiting)
And that should be the end of it. This post screams male privilege, male privilege in the workplace, male privilege in the modern world, and male privilege in its proudest moment deciding who gets the job. This question author has taken a crucial first step in asking this question, here’s hoping he takes the advice of Dima and Kee:
“Offer her the job. She can handle your existing team, she’s had to do that all her life.
If she accepts, ask her if there is anything you can do for her, as the first woman hired, to make the work environment a positive place for her.”
—Kee Nethery, Entrepreneur for 25 years
You see, his initial premise, while well-intentioned, is flawed. He is mostly worried about his existing team and how they’ll react to her physical appearance, when instead, as Kee points out, he should be worrying about how he can help her feel comfortable and expect more from his current team. In fact, one helpful commenter showed him how to use this odd, sexist incident to his advantage:
“Start practicing how you as the leader of the team set and enforce expectations. For example, if you don’t have an official Equal Opportunity policy now would be a good time to establish one.
It will probably help to frame diversity policy not as a punishment, or as a preemptive measure because you don’t trust your team, but as the “right thing to do” for a variety of ethical and pragmatic reasons. Since you believe in your team so much you know that it’s going to keep growing and you won’t want to deny your team the opportunity to acquire the best people possible, whoever they happen to be.”
—Matt Maier, Howstr.com