Out of curiosity: was she talking to larger companies or startups? I am curious how prevalent the problem is in the larger startup community, as I genuinely don't know what % of valley companies with < 10 employees show signs of sexism (though I believe that question may be too vague and ill-defined to answer properly).
Very common problem: interviewers asking questions about who was going to take care of the kids.
Actually happened: an interviewer displayed a picture of himself not wearing pants. That interview was in Chicago; I was in Michigan at the time, thankfully.
I see no correlation between company size and occurrence of this stuff.
I have friends who happen to be both notoriously successful in the tech field and female. They are all extremely touchy about this subject. They are touchy because crazy shit like this happens to them all the time.
There is, I think, no magic solution to this problem other than consistent public declamation, and of course being prepared to fire people who engage in this kind of behavior. People who harass women or act out on the belief that women are inferior to men or somehow likely to have obtained their position through anything other than merit have no place in any company I'm affiliated with.
This is very true. unbelievable crazy batshit stuff happens to me -all the time-. Like "Police report filed" crazy. Like "I no longer open up any letters or packages unless I am positive I know who sent it" crazy. Like "I have to make sure that wherever I live, there is a camera at the doorbell and multiple doors before they can get in" crazy.
Its not a majority of guys, and some even 'mean well' but you only need to have it happen to you once to decide that the stress of knowing something crappy will happen to you if you attend X event, is not worth the benefit of attending X.
I ask this not to argue, but because you seem both pleasant and informed/opinionated and will likely have something useful to say: what as a male hacker am I supposed to be doing about the issue in this thread?
Let's assume what I know's not true for many men - that I am not even slightly coming on to or harassing or creeping on anyone and am very polite to women personally, or abusing position over them, etc. (I used to be treated like some kind of rapist by many women for prosaic things like opening doors or walking down the street, I guess from inherent suspicion of single men - now that I am usually with my wife when I'm outside of work/home, nobody looks at me twice or gives me dirty looks, which is vastly less awkward).
I don't often see situations where women are being harassed these days, so I don't even have scope to act like some kind of gender-police hero. Nor is it always called for, that I can see; I like to reassure or express solidarity with people who are getting treated in a normally dickish way, but usually not in the form of a giant "you are a huge asshole" confrontation, which can be bad for one's career and such, especially when 'the hacker scene is full of assholes.' But if I noticed sexual harassment or implicit threats or something I would already try to make sure something was said.
So what else is there? Should I just admit some kind of privilege and say it's really bad and then I don't have to do anything else, or is there some specific thing I should be doing? Because I can't get a specific reading on what I ought to be doing and sometimes suspect in these conversations that I am just supposed to feel bad and say something submissive, which really isn't satisfying when I have honestly spent my whole adult life consciously trying to be nice and even-handed to women.
Examples off the top of my head: sometimes it may be as simple as noticing that people keep unconsciously interrupting a female coworker for no real reason, so you casually and non-condescendingly form a pause so she can finish talking - or maybe you're helping pick speakers for an event and you've thought of a person who happens to be a woman who would be great to round out the day, but she hasn't submitted a proposal yet or whatever, so you email her to ask if she's interested. And of course you also keep a friendly non-condescending eye out for men who similarly may be getting unfairly ignored or underestimating their own skills, but that kind of subtle social support often already comes naturally for people dealing with their own gender, and it's also somewhat less common for men to be randomly assumed to not know what they're talking about, etc.
In other words, being an active feminist is just generally being a decent human being, to women and to men, but also including a well-informed eye toward the biases left by generations of discrimination.
I wouldn't know what to do about it though, society is kind of messed up that way. If you attract any attention as woman, IMO doesn't matter in what kind of group, there will be assholes.
I understand the touchiness on the subjet, which is why I enjoy frank discussions about it. However, I think it's harmful to the cause to make this difficult to talk about. The most powerful opponents to abuse are victims who can speak openly and frankly about their experiences. Touchiness, while entirely justified and understandable, is less effective than enabling intelligent discussions about sexism without the risk of being labeled "intolerant".
Agreed on the solution: intolerance for intolerance is the only long-term solution.
"Actually happened: an interviewer displayed a picture of himself not wearing pants."
How many people even have a picture of themselves without pants on at their fingertips, ready to display at a moment's notice?
I guess it could devolve in to a he said / she said of "well, she told me to bring nude pictures of myself". Maybe that'd fly?
Not to excuse this, but it made me think of a rather terrible mistake I recently made, which I am glad has not come back to bite me. I was the last interviewer for a guy who was Jewish and didn't use technology on the Sabbath. As I was walking him back to the lobby I mused out loud that that was interesting since we have pager duty and I wonder what other teams do in that situation, since surely we wouldn't be the only team at the company who employed someone with that or similar restrictions. It wasn't until my wife pointed out to me that that was probably completely illegal and could have had serious repercussions for me that I thought I had done anything but muse about something meaningless out loud.
Sometimes people just don't think, I guess is my point.
(This since I notice you are taking the tack that the problem was the unlawfulness of what you were doing: if you believe that your behavior was actually intrinsically immoral, you don't mention it.)
It's much better, one can say with hindsight, to say something like "Just so you are sure, I'll make sure this point about no tech on the Sabbath doesn't count against a good candidate like yourself, actually I think it's great to be able to regularly get your head out of your job, but this doesn't fit with how we are working here. If you get the job, you'll need to be active in figuring out how to make sure that things that are your responsibility can be dealt with by other team members if something urgent comes up then."
how the interviewer would know about the kids to start with? Did he ask about it? That question is already illegal. Or was the fact of having kids brought up by the candidate? Then the candidate got what s/he was asking for.
>Actually happened: an interviewer displayed a picture of himself not wearing pants. That interview was in Chicago; I was in Michigan at the time, thankfully.
was he doing it only to female candidates? Do we know it for sure? Or may be we just promoting and reinforcing the stereotype that women are intentionally targeted?
I'm sure you have some nerdy comeback to this too. Feel free to the last word.
Is asking this question illegal? Girl or Boy - Shouldn't it be OK for the candidate to give an answer to such a question.
I'm failing to see anything offensive in the nature of the question.
Please let me know about it, I'm about to interview someone and I don't want to look offensive or rude.
>some nerdy comeback
it isn't first time you use "nerd" as pejorative. Why such a hate? Did nerds pick up on you at school?
Guy says "I have kids". No problem.
Woman says "I have kids". Problem.
Whether it's legal to ask or unnecessary to mention is irrelevant.
>Woman says "I have kids". Problem.
Candidate on the interview says "I have kids". It sounds like the candidate is bringing on a condition that the candidate considers as potentially having some relation to the proposed employment (otherwise why would the candidate mention it?). It is only reasonable for the interviewing person to ask how the candidate would manage the condition that the candidate brought on in a manner and situation that strongly suggests that the candidate may consider the condition as potentially related to the proposed employment.
Interviewer asks: can tell me about a situation where you had to improvise?
Interviewee: well, just this morning, my two year old…
I'm also now scared that you get offended while I really don't want you to; that's not why I asked. I might be missing some connotations, or the specific tone that goes with that phrase.
See http://www.microsoft.com/business/en-us/resources/management... and http://www.focus.com/fyi/30-interview-questions-you-cant-ask... for some lists of questions that help illustrate this. Instead of asking a very personal question like "Do you have or plan to have children?" and extrapolating random stuff from the answer, you ask the directly useful question you really meant to ask: "Are you available to work overtime on occasion? Can you travel?"
Personally, I've black listed companies for using booth babes at shows
in Vegas. I care more about how equally and fairly they present
themselves in public, than I care about the bottom line of my company or
if their products could benefit my company. --Some say that I "take
things too seriously," but of course, I disagree and I refuse to change.
Being "the dude" who takes a stand on such things has undesired side
effects, but sadly, there is even worse reputation damage of being known
as the female who "complains" about sexual harassment.
Also, your location is a bit notorious. Visiting Chicago from the Valley
in the late 80's was a shock for me, both the sexism and the racism.
It was my first trip east of the west coast.