Sexist Hiring Practices: The Path of Least Resistance

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A.P. Scheiderer

Senior Contributor, Associate Editor
Feminism and Snack Eating Enthusiast

I work in one of the many warehouses around the country (and the world, honestly) of a corporation that is so pervasive in our culture that almost everyone has either heard of it or used its services, with the exception of my 83-year old friend who gets a freebie. Working there does not necessarily bring me true joy, but rather allows me to pay most of the bills and meet interesting people. I’d actually consider it more of a social experiment than anything. I could work anywhere to pay the bills – but there is something to be said for existing under the eye of the Grand Master of capitalism, throw-away culture, and instant gratification. What a time to be alive!

At this specific warehouse site, all seven of the managers in the building are cisgender men. Six out of the seven are white, and the one manager who is not white is of the ethnicity, and has the same first language, as many of the warehouse workers. I noticed these demographics my first day on the job six months ago, but it wasn’t until last week when one of the managers left for another site that I became significantly more annoyed than before. Namely because his replacement was, yet another, youngish cisgender white male.

I reeeally wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt. I wanted to believe that they would hire a woman. Or a woman of color. Or a gender non-conforming individual. Hell, ANYONE else who wasn’t a mirror image of the other corporate cronies standing behind their tall wooden desks.

Alas, I was too naïve. I should have known that most managers are more likely to recruit men based on paper applications even if the applicants had equal skills. I should have known that masculinity is perceived as the best and most engaging sort of energy in leadership and that patrilineal ideas of ‘men’ as ‘head of the house’ show ‘logical’ decision making and would therefore be best used in the workplace. I should have known that bias hiring practices are so real that we have an entire bureau in the Department of Labor dedicated to reporting information on them.

This nice little infograph tells us about how women have come a long way in the workforce – which is true! -don’t get me wrong. But the fact remains that the institutional and systemic sexism, racism, and misogyny that creeps into hiring practices perpetually and consistently put women, and especially women of color, at a disadvantage to just get into the workplace, let alone leadership positions.

“The corporate world is led by men confident that they are identifying talent objectively and effectively. The reality, underlined by this and many other reports, is that decision making about talent is rife with unconscious assumptions and personal biases.”  – Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, the CEO of gender consulting firm 20-first and author of How Women Mean Business.

The majority of the people that work in the warehouse with me are women. There are more women of color than there are white women. Many of them are women whose first language is not English. Is is beyond problematic that over 50% of the people at my place of employment, a company whose mission actually states one of its core values as wanting to ‘Hire and Develop the Best,’ cannot look to the managers tables and see someone who looks even remotely like them. There is no one in leadership who might be able to help someone in the nursing mother’s room (which is actually just an office managers use sometimes with folding tables, don’t even get me started on that). There is no one in leadership who could identify with the immigrant or first generation women of color who experience the job there so much differently than myself. There is no one in leadership who an associate could take aside and talk to about a personal matter they, oh, I don’t know, might not be comfortable speaking with a man. It’s only every single day that women are deemed as being ‘unfit’ for certain jobs (and to some, the workplace in general) and talking about ‘personal’ things is considered ‘unprofessional,’ ‘weak,’ or ‘inappropriate.’ If the company actually wanted to ‘hire and develop the best’ they would know that hiring a diverse staff benefits the relationships, perspectives, and practices within a workplace.



But hiring the status quo is so easy! No pregnancies to deal with. No PMS episodes (which I feel feelings about, but for a different time). No worrying about whether you’re being ‘too offensive,’ or if you’ll be able to find a place where everyone can be happy at happy hour. When it’s a good ol’ boys club, all’s well that ends well.

I have a very hard time believing that absolutely zero women applied for that job. I have a very hard time believing that the women who did apply for that job were unqualified to serve in it.

We are functioning in a world where, on average, women would have to work an extra forty-four days in a year to make as much as men. Having to educate leadership on why it’s important for a very large population of people to be hired is the last thing we (you and I) want to do after an already full day of fighting injustice. But – if my lot in life is to be the squeaky warehouse wheel, then so be it.

I wish they would have proven me wrong. I wish they could have recognized this rehiring as an opportunity to expand their managerial demographic-horizons. I wish it weren’t up to the (possibly perceived as ‘ad nauseum’) twenty-something white girl to point out that they’re being big dummies and making poor choices that do not reflect the best interests of their employees, which will in turn affect employee retention, which will in turn affect training and workplace mistake costs. Think if I put it in terms of dollars and cents they’ll pay attention? I have every intention of addressing this to the gaggle of goons if they’ll listen. Otherwise there’s the always very personal HR interaction to look forward to. Check out the collection of folks at the tall wooden desks at your own place of work – who’s standing behind them?