Where are the women working in male-dominated fields such as Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM)?
As someone who works in a male-dominated, STEM profession, I could totally relate to both of these posts.
THEY ONLY NEED TO HEAR MY VOICE TO REJECT ME FOR A JOB
I’d say about 50% of my interviews (in the past for jobs) and for contracts turn out to be a wash.
Know how I can tell?
It’s within the first 30 seconds of talking to me on the phone for a technical interview.
First, they ask for me by name.
When I say: Speaking!
They usually say: Oh! followed by a hesitation or an .. Umm…
Some even have the gall to say: You are not what I expected.
I try to make some lame joke about this, but I already know the interview is over and I am not going to be getting that job.
To Kathy’s point below, the reason why I would be qualified for a position based on my resume but fail at a technical interview is because the ones who are hiring in HR are not the ones who can do the job from a technical standpoint.
They usually get an employee in my field who then puts me through some technical interview questions, and then THEY are the ones who tell HR “Yes” or “No”.
Everything hinges on this technical interview.
It sometimes has nothing to do with how well I answer or how good my answers are, it has everything to do with their already inherent bias against a woman in STEM; as in the stereotype of some guys that women are not mentally fit for such professions.
It is not that HR or the company itself doesn’t want to hire the best person even if it’s a woman, it is all hinging on that one, possibly misogynist employee.
If they absolutely have to do the technical interview, they continue, but half-heartedly because they were asked to interview me, and this is what they have to do to report back to their manager.
They go through routine questions, sound pretty much bored, and never ask me anything beyond the basics.
In a few instances, I might even get an interviewer who gets into a heated debate and argue with me about something I said that they feel is not “technically correct” because they don’t really know their jobs from a technical standpoint, but feel the need to show that they are indeed, middle-aged men who are more intellectually superior to me, a young female in the same field.
Case in point: An interview I had way back when
I once had an interview over the phone and BF was in the same room as me. I was going through the interview, and I was repeating each question back to the interviewer to make sure I understood what he wanted to know about, and plus, it gave BF a chance to eavesdrop.
In the middle of the interview, I gave a response that I knew was correct (I worked with a similar problem), but afterwards, the interviewer tried to tell me I was wrong or mistaken in my answer and tried to correct me.
It kind of went like this:
Me: No I’m sorry, but that is not the correct. It works like this…..
[proceeds to lay out how it works.. again]
Me: Pardon me? Oh.. you want MORE information on this?
But I wouldn’t be able to give you any more detail unless you present me with an actual scenario to work out.
Afterwards, BF gave me a bemused look and said:
You gave a perfect answer.
In fact, I don’t even know where you got that answer from because even I would not have said it so well.
Then he has the nerve to ask for MORE INFO?
There’s nothing more to give. That guy doesn’t know his job. He’s a moron.
I’ll bet he Googled the questions to interview you.
Me: *shrug* He didn’t like me from the start because I’m a woman. I could tell.
I doubt they ever get off the phone and do any research into what I said, because they are too lazy, and assume that they’re right and I’m wrong. I mean, I have to be wrong! I’m younger, AND A WOMAN.
The point is that I have to work harder, and get a lot more flack from people in my industry just because I am a young female. Period.
Nothing to do with colour, race, the school I went to, the accent I have or don’t have, or anything else.
These are all PHONE interviews so they don’t even know what I look like.
They only need to hear my voice to judge me.
ADULTS UNCONSCIOUSLY INFLUENCE WHAT CHILDREN DO
Cassie’s post where are the women in engineering? lays out the argument perfectly.
Girls are meant to do girl things, and boys are meant to do boy things.
When girls or boys try to go into something that is not girly or boyish enough, they’re prompted and gently steered back to their respective roles.
Think about these job roles:
- Male secretary
- Male nurse
- Male midwife
- Female mechanic
- Female construction worker
- Female plumber
Do they sound odd to you?
They shouldn’t, but even to my eyes and ears, they do because it is SO RARE to see people in those areas.
BEING INTERESTED IN ONE AREA DOESN’T MEAN YOU CAN’T BE INTERESTED IN ANOTHER
I’ll admit to being very girly even from the start.
I like clothes, I like shopping, I like makeup, and I always had my trio of colours around me as a little girl (pink, purple and white), plus loving EVERYTHING unicorn (I even had a unicorn clock). I was just .. GIRLY.
(Unicorn catnip for my 5-year old self)
.. but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a brain or the aptitude for the more technical things.
I mean to put it another way, it is irrational to think that liking unicorns and certain colours makes someone less inclined towards more technical subjects.
Does liking pink make someone stupid? It’s just a colour, what can it do? It is completely irrational to base intelligence on what colour you like.
And why is pink associated with stupidity?
Why not blue? Or black?
See how dumb all of that sounds?
The thing is that no subject in the world is difficult if someone is interested in it, and it has nothing to do with whether or not you are a boy or a girl.
It has everything to do with if you are interested in that subject or not.
I am not interested in physics or cars for instance, but I have been and always was interested in design and coding.
I started a business as a freelancer when I was 16, consulting with small to mid-sized companies on building websites and a branding image online, before anyone really thought that a website was a necessity for a business.
I taught myself coding languages and software required to build websites or to design things because it was fun. I got a real rush from being challenged to figure out a solution to a problem, and that’s what I saw coding as — a problem to be fixed.
(I have since let my outdated coding skills go to ground and only pull them out for this blog.)
I didn’t think: OMG! I’m a girl! Is this girly enough? Should I go brush my hair and giggle over boys instead?
I saw coding to be equally as fun and interesting as figuring out what to wear for the next day (I liked setting out my outfits the night before).
I even played video games (online and offline), and managed to turn that hobby of virtual game playing into a business where I made money for college, all while wearing makeup and accessorizing.
SO WHERE ARE THE WOMEN IN MALE-DOMINATED FIELDS?
For those of us who were lucky and encouraged to pursue whatever we wanted to do, we’re in a field that we love and with the way we present ourselves, we are quietly (I hope!) helping change people’s perceptions of who is fit to do the job, regardless of gender.
For the rest who were not so lucky, and undermined by their parents, or other adult influencers in their lives, I hope they read this post and stand up for what they really want to do.
Maybe they could even switch careers midway through their life.
It is never too late.
For all the little babies and girls who are currently experiencing resistance to their choice of hobby or subject matter, be it playing video games, coding, math, science, cars or anything that is not very ladylike or girly, I can only hope that adults in their lives and their parents read this post and give them a chance to do whatever they want to do.
Another good read on statistics about how gender equality is quite real is: where are the women in science?
I hope everyone who reads this encourages girls and women to try things and to learn subjects that are not typically female-oriented or female-dominated, such as how to best invest your money.
No seriously, more women than men (not saying that men don’t do this) seem to have this budgeting thing down pat, but when it comes to slightly more advanced personal finance topics like INVESTING, there seems to be a blockage or avoidance of the subject that mystifies me.
Finally, it is also up to us, women who are not only in these fields, but women who are not!
We can’t expect change if we don’t initiate or fight for it.
Who’s going to hand change over on a silver platter and coax or guide us through everything?
No one. It starts with us.