Saturday, July 13, 2013

A boy called Sue

Kim O'Grady writes, "I understood gender discrimination once I added “Mr.” to my resume and landed a job".

The tl;dr version is: Kim was an experienced engineering/business person who was applying for jobs. Sent out dozens of resumes to top places, did not get a single interview. Sent out his resume to a bunch of lower tier places, still no interview. Finally, he realizes they are taking "Kim" to mean he is a woman. So he adds the prefix "Mr." to his resume, sends it out again, and immediately lands interviews.
My first name is Kim. Technically, it’s gender neutral, but my experience showed that most people’s default setting in the absence of any other clues is to assume Kim is a woman’s name. And nothing else on my CV identified me as male. At first I thought I was being a little paranoid, but engineering, sales and management were all male-dominated industries. So I pictured all the managers I had over the years and, forming an amalgam of them in my mind, I read through the document as I imagined they would have. It was like being hit on the head with a big sheet of unbreakable glass ceiling.
This is so sad. It reminds me of neurobiologist Ben Barres' experience, where after giving a seminar as a Ben after his transition from Barbara someone in the audience remarked, "Ben Barres's work is much better than his sister's."

The one I hear a lot in my field is, "X is a superstar" or "X is gifted", and always "X" is a man. I've never heard a woman referred to as a superstar or being gifted in her field. I've also never heard of a young woman referred to as a child prodigy.