Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Many alarming things rolled into one

Last week, in hiring committee, we're reading a packet in which a female interviewer Mary described a series of actions by the candidate, which left her feeling subtlely but definitely slighted. (This is vague on purpose, to prevent any sexist bastard readers from gaming the system during interviews!)

Me: [reading the description] This is pretty bad. If this is true, I don't think we should hire.

Recruiter #1: Well, I spoke to Eleanor (senior recruiter) and apparently this happens every time we set up an interview with a female interviewer in this particular format.

Brandon: Yeah, we probably already hired a bunch of people who would've shown this kind of sexism, except we didn't put them through this setup.

Me: That's ... probably true. [becoming depressed]

Recruiter #1: Yeah, Eleanor said not to set them up in this way in the future, because it always happens.

Me: That's not true. I did one exactly like this on Monday, and the candidate was perfectly respectful and didn't do any of [waving the packet] these things.

Martin and Brandon: [simultaneously] That's because it was YOU, Niniane.

Me: Are you saying that I look like a man?

Martin and Brandon: [still in unison] NO.

Recruiter #1: Okay, so it might just be that Mary (the interviewer) made the candidate nervous. That could explain his actions too.

Recruiter #2: Yeah. [turning to me] Niniane, a bunch of candidates told me you made them nervous.

Me: What?? I make such a big effort to be friendly!

Recruiter #2: Sure, but they walk in there, not expecting to have a senior engineer interview them who's ... pretty. They're expecting ... one of these guys [gestures toward Martin and Brandon, who are surprisingly unoffended].

Me: Okay, so to test out this theory, we should have an attractive female engineer re-interview this candidate. I suggest Wendy S.

Everyone else: [complete silence] ... [crickets chirping, tumbleweed, etc] ...

Recruiter #1: Uh ... anything I say in reply to that might end up in a lawsuit.


There are a bunch of things screwed up about this. The part that bothered me the most was the idea that perhaps in comparison, I actually have it easy. Perhaps other women deal with a lot more sexist crap. I know this is true for China and other countries and other companies, but maybe it's true even within Google's primary-colored walls.


I'm already annoyed at the subtle (and not so subtle) sexist jabs that I have to deal with. So if other women have it worse, I'm amazed we have ANY women in computer science.

I guess if women can push watermelons through straws, then they can deal with anything.


Hasan said...

I echo your concerns about discrimination (of which sexism is a component) in the workplace. No matter where you work, your gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. you can interpret things in a discriminatory manner. Not to diminish Mary's insight, but sometimes it's a matter of interpretation.

Adam Lasnik said...

Witnessed at a recent tech conference:
Old white man: "I'll bet you're a MARKETING girl! Maybe a sales girl?"
"Girl": "Um, no, I'm an engineer."

The simultaneous look of disgust on her face and the look of surprise on his face: priceless.

L. Wu said...