How I Learned to Fight Gender Bias as a Candidate

It is a true privilege to be asked to write an article for TwentyPine’s Women’s Hiring Month and address some of the issues I’ve experienced firsthand. For the past three years I have been in Sales roles with Tech companies of all sizes – from established companies like Yelp to start-ups barely out of their garages. The experience of being a woman in a male-dominated role within a male-dominated industry, I believe, makes me uniquely qualified to talk about this subject.

Let’s take a second here to address one thing. Rather than detail how unfair hiring is towards women, I want the purpose of this article to acknowledge we can all do better, and keep focused on how to practically and effectively advocate for ourselves.

The Hiring Process

TwentyPine is a recruiting firm so let’s focus on the hiring process. There are a few pitfalls when interviewing and negotiating salary that I have seen in my experience, which can be avoided if hiring managers, candidates, and anyone else involved are cognizant of them.

Candidates – Interview Smart

I don’t personally know of anyone who has just been handed a job without the application and interview process. We’ve all been job candidates at some point. As a woman, I have faced particular issues in terms of confidence and misrepresentation when it comes to getting hired – I’m sure many other women out there have as well.

The core of the problem surrounding the interview process lies in how we want our personality to be perceived. We all know interviewers have their own biases when hiring. Women must know the smart ways to combat those biases in a way that sets us up for success during hiring and when we get the job.

The first step is to understand what the organization is looking for and prepare to sell ourselves. Research on the company and hiring managers prior to interviewing is important – for anyone. Personally, the company values I’ve encountered include honesty, outgoingness, fearlessness, and leadership. As a woman possessing these qualities that is what I look to convey in my interviews.

With male interviewers we’re fighting against confirmation bias of how their subconscious believes a woman should act – no matter what the role itself is asking for. For women, that means there is higher risk of misconceptions jading the interview.

  • If you’re quiet, you’re perceived as mousy or passive.
  • If you’re loud, you’re perceived as aggressive and ambitious.

Studies show that giving interviewers time improves accuracy and reduces gender bias. So do your best to take as much time as you can to let the interviewer get to know you. They’re more likely to get to know the person than just seeing a faceless candidate.

Negotiate Like a Girl

Research has proven over and over again that women make less money than men, and one of the main reasons is that they are less likely to negotiate for salary.

It is not because we are weak, timid or any other sexist stereotype – it’s because we’re accurately reading the social situation! We don’t negotiate in situations where we know there is a financial or social cost to negotiating. Don’t worry, we can combat the underlying issue and negotiate for the salary we deserve – we just have to be smart about it.

The article linked above references the “relational accounts” method of negotiation. It’s a good one. Let me offer another strategy that is a bit of a plug: use a talent agency or headhunting firm. Employees at firms like ours are expected to negotiate on our client’s behalf – that gives us the advantage of being able to negotiate a higher salary while sidestepping the frustrating gender bias. With the expectation established we have the freedom to negotiate without the social downsides of looking like a non-team-player. Tell your representative what you want and then let them work for you.

For those who are negotiating directly, be wary of not representing yourself accurately and compromising yourself to get hired. We can and we must do better. Younger women entering the workforce for the first time, talk with your female leaders, build relationships, and discuss strategies for successfully combating gender bias in the workplace and hiring process. I’ve had the opportunity to work for women led organizations and that alone has been empowering, let alone the community of mentors and advisors I’ve cultivated on my journey.

Keep at it ladies. You can get the job you love at the salary you deserve.

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