How I discovered gender discrimination

"My choice to brand the CV with a bold positioning of my name actually seemed to scream that I was a woman."

"My choice to brand the CV with a bold positioning of my name actually seemed to scream that I was a woman." Photo: CSA Images

It was the late ’90s and I was at an interesting phase of my career. For the first time in my life I possessed relevant qualifications, experience and could also show a successful track record in my chosen career path. I had the job seeker’s trifecta. It was also summer and my current employer was pissing me off with their penny-pinching ways, so after three years of ball busting effort I decided a break and a job change was in order. Displaying characteristic overconfidence in myself I quit my job (without burning any bridges) and set about applying for others.

I was experienced in managing technical & trade supply businesses. I also had engineering experience and sales experience and had demonstrably excelled at every sales and profit target I had ever been given. I started applying for roles that would stretch me and lift my career up a notch. There were plenty of opportunities around and I usually had a few applications on the go at any one time. I was an experienced guy in an experienced guy’s world, this wouldn’t be hard.

Then the rejection letters trickled in. I could take rejection, it goes hand in hand with business, but after the first few months I was frankly confused. I hadn’t had a single interview. Instead of aiming high I lowered my sights and started applying for jobs where there was no career advancement. Now I had everything these employers could possibly want, it would be a shoe in. But still not one interview came my way, not even a phone inquiry.

Somewhere after the four month mark my confidence was starting to take a hit. The people rejecting me were business people too, how could my reasoning that I was perfect for these jobs be so different to theirs? Putting on my most serious business head I went back and scoured my CV. It was the only contact any of my potential employers or their recruitment companies had had with me. My CV was THE common denominator and if something was wrong it MUST be there.

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I had fortunately seen a number of CVs in my time. I was happy with the choice of style and layout, and the balance of detail versus brevity. I was particularly pleased with the decision I made to brand it with my name with just enough bold positioning to make it instantly recognisable, and as I sat scouring every detail of that CV a horrible truth slowly dawned on me. My name.

My first name is Kim. Technically its 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 women’s name. And nothing else on my CV identified me as male. At first I thought I was being a little paranoid but engineering, trades, sales and management were all definitely 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.

My choice to brand the CV with a bold positioning of my name actually seemed to scream that I was a woman. I could easily imagine many of the people I had worked for discarding the document without even reading further. If they did read further the next thing they saw (as politeness declared at the time) was a little personal information, and that declared I was married with kids. I had put this in because I knew many employers would see it as showing stability, but when I viewed it through the skewed view of middle aged men who thought I was a woman, I could see it was just further damning my cause. I doubt if many of the managers I had known would have made it to the second page.

I made one change that day. I put Mr in front of my name on my CV. It looked a little too formal for my liking but I got an interview for the very next job I applied for. And the one after that. It all happened in a fortnight and the second job was a substantial increase in responsibility over anything I had done before. In the end I beat out a very competitive short-list and enjoyed that job for the next few years, further enhancing my career.

Where I had worked previously there was a woman manager. She was the only one of about a dozen at my level, and there were none on the next level. She had worked her way up through the company over many years and was very good at her job. She was the example everyone used to show that it could be done, but that most women just didn’t want to. It’s embarrassing to think I once believed that. It’s even more incredible to think many people still do.

 

46 comments

  • I was hoping that the story would end up with some sort of actual statistics here to actually prove the point rathe than just saying that based on one person's experience gender dsicrimination exists. Perhaps a few other examples of friends or acquantainces or just random people who have also suffered at it, or a explanation of what it was like to work at these companies that presumably would have discrimated against the author on the basis of his gender. But nope, apparently on the basis of just one story we should accept beyond all doubt that gender discrimination is real.

    Commenter
    Hurrow
    Date and time
    August 05, 2013, 9:26AM
    • There are plenty of statistics out there. You could look at the gender pay gap. You could look at how much worse off financially women are at approaching retirement age. You could look at the gap between men and women's graduate salaries. But something tells me that you probably won't believe those statistics, because you don't want to believe that gender discrimination exists and no amount of statistics, no matter if accompanied by anecdotes or not, will convince you otherwise.

      Commenter
      Cass
      Date and time
      August 05, 2013, 10:38AM
    • Hurrow, you and I must have read different articles. Nothing in this article attempts to make a global statement about gender discrimination. The way I read it, this is a story of one man's experience and, more importantly, reflection, self awareness and shift in perspective. Once the shoe is on the other foot, you really don't have to look very far to realise that the privilege you have always taken for granted is, in face, privilege.

      Commenter
      Mimi
      Date and time
      August 05, 2013, 10:47AM
    • It is an anecdote: a first-hand account of how someone came to the conclusion that their erstwhile understanding of the world was inaccurate. It doesn't purport to be a scientific study.
      In any case, what sort of statistics could he show? Where could he obtain a record of all the jobs that someone didn't get because they were the wrong gender, age, ethnicity etc?

      Commenter
      AG
      Date and time
      August 05, 2013, 10:51AM
    • Cass so long as the statistics are collected appropriately they are what they are, the real value add comes in actually interpreting them though. If you want to look at how much worse off women are financially near retirement age, you might want to think about whether or not that is due to women taking time out of the workforce for pregnancy and raising children and whether or not it would therefore impact upon their ability to save for retirement.

      It might surprise you to learn that I do believe that gender discrimination does exist, although I would think that it is far more likely to be in industries that are already highly skewed towards one gender in their current employees. So women are probably to some extent discriminated against in fields like mining, engineering etc and men in nursing, childcare etc. On the other hand that can work in your favour if firms are looking to have a more diverse workforce. I do find it annoying though that in a story where some more examples and stats could have been quoted we end up with one anecdote to apparently prove a point. The story shows correlation, not causation.

      Mimi you are correct, unfortunately I have once again fallen victim to reading the headline (which does imply a more global statement) and assuming that the author has written it and that it applies to the article. However if a story is on Daily Life I think it should be fair to assume that it is intended to have a wider story to tell than just being about one bloke having a hard time getting a job.

      Commenter
      Hurrow
      Date and time
      August 05, 2013, 11:32AM
    • This isn't about whether there's gender discrimination in the workplace, it's about whether there's discrimination that's difficult to prove when even attempting to get to the first post.

      Four months of nothing vs two weeks being very successful is a pretty powerful.

      It probably also happens to male child care workers.

      Commenter
      bornagirl
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      August 05, 2013, 12:20PM
    • But Cass, while statistics show a pay gap between genders and a gap between starting graduate salaries between genders, none of these statistics show that the gap is due to gender.
      Statistics will also show that car accidents increase with umbrella sales, but just because they are related, doesn't mean one causes the other - in this case, both are caused by rain.
      I have yet to see any research that shows that there is a pay gap that is due to gender - but have seen a lot that shows there is a pay gap between genders, and then some people seem to take this as being proof that gender is the cause of the pay gap.

      Commenter
      Frank.Grimes.12345
      Date and time
      August 05, 2013, 12:25PM
    • It's called a "case study" - a valid form of research.

      Commenter
      Les
      Date and time
      August 05, 2013, 12:41PM
    • Here is one study, there are many more out there if you want to do some research
      http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/unofficial-prognosis/2012/09/23/study-shows-gender-bias-in-science-is-real-heres-why-it-matters/

      Commenter
      B
      Date and time
      August 05, 2013, 1:31PM
    • @Cass,

      The gender pay gap is based on average male earnings and female earnings and the two of the main reasons as posted by the Fair and Safe Work Queensland are:
      - a lack of permanent part time jobs and flexible working arrangements restricts the ability to combine quality employment and family care responsibilities which impacts on women having children.

      - women are over-represented in casual or non-career part time jobs bringing female average wages down.

      Hence the gender gap is not due to women getting paid less doing the SAME job as men, women are over represented in low paying jobs which brings their average down.

      So in short dont have kids which keeps your career going and will have as much super as men when retiring and work in full time profession jobs and the fact that girls are doing better than boys in univeristy anyways this shouldnt be a problem.

      Commenter
      H
      Date and time
      August 05, 2013, 2:21PM

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