Talking about Gender in a Job Interview - Casey's Story


So, not
surprisingly, I'm trying to find a job for post-graduation. While I have a
couple of leads, I've only had one interview so far. It was completely random,
I went to a job fair at Olin with zero companies I was interested in and
ended up talking to one company for a while about my involvement in the human
powered vehicle team at my school. Apparently he was very impressed by me,
because I later received an invitation to interview for a position with them. I
figured it would be good practice even though I was completely uninterested -
this company does defense work for the military, basically the opposite of what
I want to do with my life.

When I got
to the interview, the first thing I noticed was how few women were in the room. I
wasn't surprised, but it's something that you can't help but notice. I ended up
interviewing for two divisions - a more testing-oriented position and a
design-oriented one. In the testing-oriented interview, I mentioned that one of
the reasons I had chosen Olin was because I went to an all-girls high
school and I was excited about going to an engineering college with a good
gender ratio. My interviewer interrupted, "That's interesting, because you
know, there are not a lot of women who work here, it's probably only about
10%." I shrugged and said something to the effect of "It doesn't bother me, I
work with men all the time. I just didn't want to go from a completely female
environment to a completely male one."

Afterwards,
I wondered if I had said the wrong thing. What should I have said? "Yeah, that
totally stinks, maybe you should fix that?" That's certainly what I was
thinking. Gender is so awkward to talk about in a job interview. On the one
hand, I don't want it to be counted against me and on the other hand, I don't
want to pretend that it's a non-issue. I think it's important to talk about
gender issues and not build up this media-hyped lie that "feminism is dead".

My next
interview was for a design-oriented position. This division was very excited
about students from Olin in general. In fact, the man who had recommended
for me to interview was from this division. Ultimately I got a job offer from
the design division and not the testing division. I still wonder if the gender
question played into it. I actually liked the testing division way better and
could vaguely imagine myself working there.

It's so
awkward to talk about gender in a job interview. I'm sure they were trying to
figure out if that would be a deciding factor for me, but it just seems like
there's no right way to ask that.

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