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I’m a Woman in Tech, But Even I Didn’t “Get It” Until This Week with a Hiring Interview, by Laura Roeder of Edgar, Medium


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" Homogenous teams create a vicious cycle of homogeneity. Is a candidate uncomfortable around people who are gay? Older than they are, younger than they are? People of color? You might never know until they get a chance to interact with a variety of people — is that time going to come before or after that candidate is on your staff?"

How does the vicious cycle of homogeneity get broken? By consciously choosing to do so.

The thing that fascinates me most is that if we hadn’t held this interview with women, we never would have known that this was the type of workplace behavior he thought was appropriate — not until it was too late, anyway. We would have hired him.

...

If your candidates don’t get a chance to interact with women during the interview process, you don’t know what kind of comments they might make — and you might not know about the biases those comments reflect until it’s too late. You might not know how they act toward women, or whether they take them (us) seriously.

Worse still, if your company lacks women, or people of color, or other groups who are historically targets for discrimination, it might mean you already have people like this on your team — even making hiring decisions. People who might not say out loud that they prefer not to work with a certain person — maybe even people who don’t consciously recognize their own biases at all, nor the way those biases influence their behavior.

Our team is ethnically diverse, and our leadership is predominantly female. This is something that’s happened organically by valuing raw talent, and by cultivating a company culture of kindness and openness.

A very serious problem with the article is the total lack of context or specifics. Inappropriate "jokes" are the criteria for rejection with no detail as to what is considered inappropriate. What makes it worse is that the author later indicates the "jokes" weren't "over the top" or "outrageous", but again with no specifics. It makes it exceedingly hard to know what the author considers inappropriate. The lack of context is also a problem. Did the interviewers make jokes? Was a context established where the interviewee thought it was appropriate to make jokes? All hard to know. All we get from the article is a nebulous and trendy condemnation of homogeneity sprinkled with - we are women and diverse. If you are a bunch of upper middle class university educated American women of color, you aren't that much more diverse than a bunch of upper middle class university educated American white men, especially if you are of roughly the same age. You certainly don't want to hire someone who is actively racist or sexist or homophobic, but someone who is just inappropriate? 

There were details. "Comments about the interviewers’ appearance and intelligence (or lack thereof)." and “What’s with all these women in the workplace, right?”. Seems to me that's already at a "not good for business" level, and if said during a job interview with women it is definitely at a "not very smart" level.

And although I agree that women of color aren't the be-all and end-all of diversity, it's not a contest. It's about having a lot of different people who can see problems and opportunities from different perspectives. Apparently the customers of this business are marketing departments, so their corporate contacts are likely to be women. As a business person would you want a guy who can't keep his mouth shut about the intelligence of women representing you to female customers?

Business is all about the Benjamins: get along, see opportunities, expand markets, make money. Why hire someone who is going to irritate coworkers, bosses and customers for no good reason?

Agree with Halibutboy.

There's no reason to hire someone who is going to irritate people for no good reason. 

Saying there were comments on appearance and intelligence aren't details. "Those glasses make you look brainy" is a comment about appearance and intelligence. Is it offensive or inappropriate? Most people would say it depends on how it is delivered. "Nice tie." Inappropriate in an interview? It is a comment about appearance. 

The only detail was he opened with “What’s with all these women in the workplace, right?”. Coming from a white man that is going to be considered inappropriate, even though he may have interviewed at 10 other places that were solid Silicon Valley bro-fests, and was making what he thought was a funny observation. But if the very same comment came from a female, suddenly for many, perhaps most, it takes on a whole different meaning. Is it likely that the guy has a perception problem when it comes to women in the workplace? There is a good chance, but it's really hard to tell. How did he respond when asked to clarify what he meant? Did the interviewers even ask?

As for irritation being solid criteria for not hiring someone... Really? What if you're irritated by their political preferences, or the color of their skin, or the fact you saw him kissing his boyfriend in the parking lot when he came to pick him up? Or god forbid he's a Yankees fan and you're a Red Sox fan. By all accounts Steve Jobs was a pretty irritating guy, but he sure brought home the Benjamins.

No I'm sorry, but part of promoting diversity is being able to work through things that irritate you, and drawing a clear delineation of the kind of behaviors that are totally unacceptable. Being vague and easily offended doesn't cut it.

You're right that we can only imagine the details, but the Edgar people do not strike me as people who are easily offended.

I think James Burns has a point - the article's impact could be stronger if we were provided more details.  Because it is so vague we are left guessing - and we guess according to our preconceptions.  As a result there is a bit of "preaching to the choir", sadly.

If I ever meet Laura Roeder I will offer that feedback.

You're right, a story is more powerful when it is specific. 

Now I am curious as to how long it will take you to meet Laura Roeder :)

Could be a while. She's in LA and I have no plans to go to LA any time soon. 

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